JERUSALEM (BNO NEWS) — Israel and Hamas have reached an agreement which will secure the release of captive Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit, officials at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said on late Tuesday.

Shalit was abducted by Hamas militants on June 25, 2006 and has been held in captivity since. His family has been attempting for years to have contact with him without avail.

Israel’s Haaretz newspaper reported that officials in the Prime Minister’s Office said that “a brief window of opportunity” has been opened that would possibly lead to Gilad Shalit’s homecoming. They added: “The window appeared following fears that collapsing Mideast regimes and the rise of extremist forces would make Gilad Shalit’s return impossible.”

The Israeli cabinet is due to vote on the prisoner exchange agreement, but Netanyahu aides estimate that the deal will be approved by the cabinet. Several ministers who have voiced opposition to freeing terrorists in exchange for Shalit are being pushed to approve the deal.

The Egyptian intelligence has been mediating the previous rounds of talks between the Israeli delegation and Hamas. Speaking with Haaertz, one Egyptian official said: “After 64 months of tough negotiations we were able to complete the deal. It was a very difficult task, which included thousands of hours of negotiations.”

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas welcomed the deal that will reportedly free 1,027 Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails. He said from the Venezuelan capital of Caracas, where he arrived on Tuesday, that he hopes that all Palestinian prisoners would be released from Israeli jails.

According to the deal, Israel will release 450 prisoners next week, including 315 prisoners serving life sentences. Another 577 prisoners, including all 27 female prisoners, will be released two months after concluding the first part of the deal, the Palestine News Network (PNN) reported.

Governments around the world have strongly condemned the continued detention of the IDF soldier and called on Hamas, a group the United States has designated as a terrorist organization, to release him immediately. UK Foreign Secretary William Hague welcomed the deal, saying that holding Shalit “in captivity has been utterly unjustified from the beginning and yet it has gone on for 5 long years.”

He added: “We have always called for his unconditional release. We are pleased that this long overdue development is finally taking place.”

However, it remains to be seen whether the agreement will be carried out. Last December, Israel and Hamas apparently also reached a deal for the release of Shalit, but the agreement never came about. Since then, negotiations for his release as part of a prisoner swap between Israel and the Palestinian movement have dragged on.

Since Shalit’s capture, the only signs of life have been three letters, an audio tape released a year after he was taken and a brief video broadcast on October 2, 2009.

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

Source: Wire Update.

Link: http://wireupdate.com/news/hamas-israel-reach-agreement-on-prisoner-swap-for-captured-soldier-shalit.html.

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