Israeli hostage Gilad Shalit handed over to Egypt

Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier held captive by Hamas, was handed over to Egyptian authorities on Tuesday, in a swap deal mediated by the Egyptian intelligence service. He was taken in a black sedan through the Rafah Crossing.

An informed source said Egypt finally succeeded in concluding the deal after five years and 50 sessions of negotiations, with the Israeli and Palestinian sides stubbornly adhering to their positions.

The source added that swapping Shalit with Palestinian prisoners would take place in a few days under the supervision of the Egyptian intelligence service and international bodies, such as the Red Cross.

Negotiations started in 2006, when Israel offered to swap Shalit for one Palestinian prisoner. Since that time, the two sides had unsuccessfully resorted to other international and regional mediators to conclude the deal, but then agreed to continue under Egyptian auspices.

The source explained that Hamas would now swap Shalit with 1000 male Palestinian prisoners and 27 females.

Israeli and US intelligence sources explained that the deal also says Hamas would move its headquarters from Damascus to Cairo, which is considered a blow to the Syrian regime, Hezbollah and Iran in terms of their relations with the Palestinians.

They also said that Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal was keen to move the group's headquarters, as his movement does not want to be associated with the Syrian regime's attacks on its people. He also agreed to gradually scale down relations with Iran.

The sources also linked the Shalit deal to a US intention of achieving closer relations with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.

Meanwhile, the Gaza Strip was the scene of celebrations by thousands of Palestinians on hearing about the deal, while the Arab League praised Egypt’s efforts in securing the deal.

Informed Egyptian sources had on Wednesday denied reports by news agencies that Cairo had already taken possession of Shalit.

Translated from the Arabic Edition

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