Following days of media speculation that the Olmert government was close to concluding a prisoner swap deal with Hamas that would see abducted Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit freed from Gaza, the Prime Minister's Office on Tuesday said that talks had hit a major roadblock.
Israeli representatives spent the past few days in Cairo in intense negotiations with Hamas via Egyptian mediators. By Monday morning, Israel had agreed to release nearly all of the 450 terrorists Hamas wants freed from Israeli jails, despite the fact many have directly murdered Israeli Jews.
But the envoys told Olmert upon their return Monday evening that Hamas had suddenly hardened its position and introduced new extreme demands, making a deal in the next few days impossible.
Hamas later denied altering its position, and accused Israel of spreading lies in order to scuttle the negotiations.
The saga of Shalit's three-year captivity is now likely to be inherited by the incoming government of Benjamin Netanyahu, who few expect to be so generous with Hamas as was Olmert.