JERUSALEM (JTA) — Hamas’ exiled leader said Israel is blocking an Egyptian-brokered Gaza truce by linking it to the release of a kidnapped soldier.
"A truce can come about only in exchange for a lifting of the blockade and the reopening of the crossing points," Khaled Mashaal said Tuesday in Damascus, the French news agency AFP reported. "It is unacceptable to combine the truce issue with the question of Israeli prisoner Gilad Shalit."
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Sunday that Israel will not agree to a truce with Hamas until an agreement is reached on Shalit’s release. Shalit has been held captive by Hamas, reportedly in Gaza, for more than three years following a cross-border raid.
Also Tuesday, the London-based Arabic newspaper Al-Hayat reported that a senior Hamas official said his organization would be willing to negotiate Shalit’s release before concluding a cease-fire agreement.
Israel’s security Cabinet will meet Wednesday to agree on Israel’s proposal of a deal to bring Shalit home. Olmert said Tuesday that he is not sure a deal on Shalit’s release will be completed before the end of his term.