Israel agrees to free Arab killers for Shalit

Monday, February 18, 2008 |  by Staff Writer

Israel and Hamas have reached an agreement on the identities of 230 out of the 350 jailed terrorists the Palestinians are demanding Israel release in exchange for kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, Israel's Army Radio reported on Monday.

Israel originally refused to release all but a handful of the security prisoners Hamas demanded, but a recent decision by a special government committee to ease restrictions on freeing terrorists who have succeeded in killing Israelis resulted in progress toward a deal many say is a dangerous attempt by the Olmert government to chalk up some positive achievements.

Speaking to a gathering of Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations in Jerusalem, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said that despite news of a possible breakthrough on Shalit, he is not optimistic the young soldier will be returned alive.

However, Mr. Olmert did reject a report published at the weekend by the German magazine Der Spiegel claiming he was prepared to announce that two Israeli reservists abducted by Lebanon's Hizballah terrorist militia in 2006 are dead.

The prime minister said Israel would continue to operate under the assumption that Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser are alive.

The cross-border abduction of Regev and Goldwasser sparked the Second Lebanon War. Lebanon and Hizballah have refused to return to the two Israelis in compliance with the UN resolution that ended that conflict.

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