Israel has sought to dampen speculation that a deal to free kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit is close. An agreement to release hundreds of Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Shalit was thought to be nearing completion, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today said it might yet fall through.
“There is still no deal and I do not know if there will be one,” he said. “But I can say that if there is going to be one, it will first of all be presented to the cabinet.” Hamas negotiators are in Egypt which has been trying to broker a deal. Officials close to the discussions said Israel has dropped its objections to some 160 Palestinian prisoners Hamas wants freed in return for Shalit. They include Marwan Barghouti, who is serving five life sentences in Israel for terrorism, but who is seen as a potential future Palestinian leader.