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Report: Indirect talks held in Cairo to free Shalit

Aug. 15, 2011 7:50 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 19, 2011 10:01 A.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Cairo will host a second round of indirect negotiations between Israel and Hamas to free Palestinian prisoners in exchange for a captured Israeli soldier, the pan-Arab Al-Hayat newspaper reported Monday.

The first round of talks was held last week, Al-Hayat reported.

A senior Egyptian official told the newspaper that Hamas commissioned Ahmad Al-Jabari to lead negotiations.

"We cannot talk about breakthroughs in the file, but we hope that both sides will show enough flexibility in order to reach a deal," the official said.

Sources told Al-Hayat that the talks were being held at the Egyptian intelligence headquarters.

Militants from Gaza captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in a cross-border raid in June 2006.

In exchange for his release Hamas has asked for the freedom of 1,000 Palestinian political prisoners, including a list of 450 named individuals and another 350 left to Israel's discretion.

The list includes elected Palestinian officials, militant leaders, the elderly, the sick, long-term prisoners, women and members of the Palestinian leadership.

Israel says many of the Palestinians have "blood on their hands" and has either refused their release or suggested they be exiled abroad.

Hamas refused the suggestion of forced exile, and a deal has not been struck.

Israel recently decided to toughen prison conditions for Palestinian inmates in an attempt to put pressure on Hamas to give up some of their conditions for a prisoner swap.

The Red Cross has criticized Hamas' refusal to allow Shalit visitors and other rights typically afforded to prisoners of war.

Hamas says agreeing to these requests would compromise the soldier's location.

Since 2007, Israeli authorities have suspended family visits for Palestinians from Gaza who were being held in Israel. According to the ICRC, in the past four years, over 700 families from Gaza have been prevented from seeing their detained relatives.

According to latest reports from the Palestinian Authority, 6,000 Palestinians are being detained in Israeli prisons, including 219 in Administrative Detention who are held without charge.
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