A slew of reports have surfaced in the past few days regarding an impending deal for the release of kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, including one today which said that Shalit has already been transferred to Egypt from Gaza in anticipation of a deal. Both the Israeli government and the Shalit family have said that they have no knowledge of such a move.
A report by the London based Al-Hayat Arabic language newspaper today is quoting unnamed Palestinian sources saying that Shalit has already been transferred to Egypt. The same sources were also quoted saying that the demand by Hamas for the prisoner exchange to be simultaneous with the release of Shalit had been withdrawn.
PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas told a Bahrain newspaper today that he confirms the existence of the deal, and that Shalit had indeed been transferred to Egypt.
Noam Shalit, father of the kidnapped soldier, however, denies any knowledge of the deal and says that based on information they obtained from their own sources said the report was false. In reaction to similar reports out yesterday, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert also denied any knowledge of the deal, saying he had learned about it from the media.
Meanwhile, international efforts are being continued in the hope of pressuring Hamas to release Shalit soon. President of the American Jewish Committee Robert Goodkind has recently visited Egypt and met with three senior Egyptian officials in an attempt to persuade Egypt to pressure Hamas on the issue of the kidnapped soldier.
Goodkind and a small delegation from the AJC met with Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit, Head of Intelligence Omar Suleiman and senior advisor to President Mubarak Osama Al Baz about the issue of the kidnapped soldiers and the possibilities of their release. Omar Suleiman, who heads the Egyptian efforts to release Shalit said that Egypt will increase the pressure on Hamas to bring to the release of the soldier.
Goodkind said that he got the impression that now, more than ever, there is a real partnership of interests between Israel and Egypt in face of the threats by extremists to destabilize the region, as we have seen in the war against Hizballah, and in the Iranian nuclear program.