Israel, Hamas Close to Schalit Prisoner Swap Deal

Hamas will have to deport some of 1,000 freed prisoners
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 22, 2009 6:39 AM CST
Israel, Hamas Close to Schalit Prisoner Swap Deal
Noam Schalit, center, father of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit, is surrounded by the press as he waits outside the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem, early Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2009.   (AP Photo/ Tara Todras-Whitehill)

A deal to swap 1,000 Palestinian prisoners for Sgt. Gilad Schalit, the 23-year-old Israeli who's been held by Hamas for 3 1/2 years, appears close after a whirlwind of negotiations between Hamas and the Israeli government. After a late-night session, Israel has reportedly replied to a Hamas offer conveyed by a German mediator, saying they would approve the swap if Gaza's rulers agree to deport some of the Palestinian prisoners. Israel is said to have handed over a list of Palestinians it wants exiled.

With Israelis extremely eager to see Schalit freed, PM Benjamin Netanyahu might score points at home by ending his ordeal, but a large-scale release could also hurt his standing among Israelis who feel releasing prisoners convicted of violence only invites more bloodshed. Leaders see deportation of the most dangerous militants as a way to defuse any outcry, on the assumption they would be less able to harm Israel from other countries or Gaza than from their homes in the West Bank. Hamas hopes the Israeli-led blockade of Gaza would be relaxed as a result of the deal; Israel vowed to keep the restrictions as long as Schalit was a captive. (Read more Israel stories.)

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