Jack Khoury
May 8, 2011 - 12:00am

The militant Palestinian group Hamas has agreed to a new draft agreement drawn up by Egypt for a prisoner swap with Israel that would see the release of an Israeli soldier held captive by the group for almost five years, Al Jazeera reported Sunday.

Following Hamas' recent reconciliation with rival Palestinian faction Fatah, Egypt has reportedly stepped up efforts to mediate the deal, which would secure the release of Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit in exchange for hundreds of Palestinian jailed in Israel.

Citing Palestinian sources, Al Jazeera said that Egyptian authorities will present the draft to a new negotiator, presumably from Israel, who is set to visit Cairo in the coming days.

Shalit has been in Palestinian captivity since he was abducted in a 2006 cross-border raid from the Gaza Strip by militants from a number of factions, including Hamas. Shalit is now in the possession of Hamas, which seized complete power in Gaza in 2007.

The group's leader, Khaled Meshaal, said during last week's signing ceremony for the reconciliation with Fatah that he hoped to see Palestinians imprisoned in Israel released as soon as possible.

Israel and Hamas have been negotiating for years via a foreign mediator on a prisoner swap deal.

The Al-Hayat newspaper reported late last month that Ahmed Jabari, the head of Hamas' military wing, met recently with Egypt's new intelligence chief to hash out a plan to advance the prisoner exchange.


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