Israel and the Palestinians are edging towards a deal which may bring freedom for a soldier kidnapped three years ago in Gaza. Nothing has been heard of Gilad Shalit since he was seized while on patrol in 2006.Hamas says that if Palestinian prisoners are released by Israel, the militant group will prove that Shalit is still alive. “Twenty female Palestinian prisoners will be released from Israeli jails in the next few days,” said Hamas spokesman Abu Obeida. “It is in exchange for clarifying the situation of the captured soldier.” The Hamas announcement was confirmed by Israel, which has never given up hope that Shalit is still alive. “It’s an important step but only a single step,” said President Shimon Peres. “The road for his liberation is still a long one and a complicated one.” If Shalit has survived, he will now be 23. His kidnappers spirited him into Gaza after they tunnelled into Israel to attack his patrol. Two other soldiers were killed in the raid.