Shalit negotiations suspended for Muslim holiday


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Negotiations to free captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit have been suspended, according to reports.

The negotiations were reportedly suspended due to the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, Ha’aretz reported Thursday, citing sources in the Hamas organization. The Hamas delegation that had traveled to Damascus to discuss progress with Israel in the negotiations returned to Cairo on Thursday, according to reports.

Shalit was captured and taken to Gaza in a cross-border raid in June 26. Early last month, a one-minute video proving that Shalit was alive was given to Israel in exchange for the release of 20 Palestinian prisoners.

Over the last week, the Prime Minister’s Office has downplayed reports that a deal to secure Shalit’s release was imminent, saying that reports in the domestic and foreign media were "not credible" and "intentionally distorted."

The negotiations are reportedly hung up over some of the big-name prisoners that Hamas wants released, as well as whether some will be deported and to where,

Meanwhile, the London-based Arabic newspaper Al-Sharq al-Awsat reported Thursday that Israel will release Marwan Barghouti, widely seen as a successor to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, as part of the deal. Barghouti is serving five life sentences in an Israeli prison for his part in planning several terrorist attacks in Israel in which many people were killed.

The report said that under the deal Israel will release 1,150 Palestinian prisoners in three stages. Some 450 prisoners would be released in the first stage, at which point Shalit would be transferred to Egypt. Once Israel releases the rest of the prisoners in two more stages, Shalit would be turned over to Israel.  

The negotiations, brokered by Germany and Egypt, are scheduled to resume at the end of the holiday. 

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