July 1, 2010 - 12:00am

Israeli government agrees to free some 1,000 Palestinians currently held in Israeli prisons for the release of Israeli captive soldier Gilad Shalit, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday evening.

"That's the price I am willing to face to bring Shalit home," local news service Ynet quoted Netanyahu as saying in a speech, by which the premier presented domestic public the government's stance on the prisoners exchange negotiation with the Palestinian Hamas movement.

However, Netanyahu noted that all the released Palestinians should not return to the West Bank and Israel will not free anyone Hamas demands.

The premier has been facing increasing public pressure to step up negotiations for the release of Shalit, an Israel Defense Forces soldier held captive by the Hamas for four years.

The public campaign to pressure Netanyahu and his cabinet to succumb to Hamas' demands for freeing the soldier takes a significant upturn this week as thousands of Israelis embarked on a week-long protest march, beginning at the captive soldier's family home in northern Israel and to end at the Prime Minister's official residence in Jerusalem.

In a response to the public, Netanyahu suggested in his speech, citing examples from his predecessors, that his government will pay price for the release of Shalit but not any price.


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