Israel has agreed to relax its demands in talks with Hamas geared at securing the release of abducted Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit, the London-based Al-Hayat newspaper said on Friday.
A basic bone of contention between Israel and Hamas in the ongoing Egypt-mediated negotiations has been Israel’s’ refusal to release a reported 120 Palestinian prisoners directly involved in attacks on Israelis.
Israel has also been reportedly adamant about its demand to expel at a certain number of Palestinian inmates from the West Bank, a stance which Hamas has long rejected.
However, according to Al-Hayat’s Friday report, Israel had agreed to a drastic cut the number of Palestinian prisoners whose release was refused from 120 prisoners to 40.
Additionally, it was reported that Israeli officials had also agreed to reduce the number of prisoners it demanded to expel from the West Bank.
The change in Israeli stance toward the release and expulsion of key Palestinian prisoners came, the Al-Hayat report claimed, as a new round of talks geared at striking a prisoner exchange deal and mediated by Egypt began on Tuesday.
Al-Hayat quoted what it said were reliable sources as saying that Egypt prepared a position paper which detailed all points of agreement and disagreement between the two sides, and which included new suggestions to resolve points of dispute.
According to the report, Israeli and Hamas representatives are expected the receive the document and present them to their respective leaderships in order to formulate new proposals.
Speaking with the London-based newspaper, the sources voiced optimism as to the possibility to advance a prisoner exchange deal, adding that Israel had reportedly agreed to release all women as well as Israeli Arab and East Jerusalem prisoners, something which Israeli strongly opposed to in the past.
Late last month, senior Egyptian sources told Haaretz that during that latest round of talks, in which Hamas politburo Khlaed Meshal also participated, Israel showed willingness to lower the number of Palestinian prisoners whose expulsion from the West Bank it intended to demand as part of the deal.
It was reported at that time that Israel wished to see 140-150 of the prisoners expelled from the West Bank after their release.