Just when a ceasefire deal seemed within striking distance talks between Israel and Hamas have faltered over the timing of a prisoner exchange.
After a cabinet meeting today the Israeli leadership insisted a lasting truce could only happen after captured soldier Gilad Shalit was release. Israeli Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit said: “This time we have to bring back Gilad home, I think it’s inconceivable to believe that we can leave him there for more time. This is an opportunity that, while we are discussing the ceasefire with Hamas and opening of the passages, it must be one of the conditions to open those passages and one of the conditions for ceasefire.” The Egyptian-led talks are aimed at putting the truce that ended the recent conflict in Gaza on a longer-term basis. Hamas accuses Israeli of going back on agreements made during the negotiations. A Hamas official said: “Our position in the Hamas movement and the resistance is clear: we condemn any attempt by the Zionist enemy to link the truce and the Shilat issue. This attempt will sabotage the effort to achieve a truce and and will hinder the Egyptian effort.” The current halt in the violence has also been strained by ongoing rocket attacks on – and reprisals by – Israel. But the talks are continuing. Hamas wants Israel’s blockade of Gaza lifted and some 1,400 Palestinians returned in exchange for Shalit. Analysts expect the two sides to eventually strike a deal.