The Islamist Hamas movement dampened expectations Monday of a prisoner exchange with Israel, which would see hundreds of Palestinian prisoners freed in exchange for Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit, held in the Gaza Strip for nearly five years.
"We have no information on this topic," Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zhuri told the German Press Agency dpa.
On Sunday, Al Jazeera had reported that Hamas has agreed in principle to a new proposal aimed at securing Shalit's release. The report said the plan was formulated by Egypt.
Egyptian sources told Haaretz Sunday that although Egypt has renewed efforts to promote a deal for Shalit's release, no actual negotiations have begun.
Palestinian sources said Egypt has been working hard to advance a deal to free Shalit, who has been in Hamas captivity since June 2006, since Hamas and Fatah signed a reconciliation agreement last week, according to the report. "Reliable" sources quoted in the report said the Egyptians intend to present their plan to an envoy who is due to arrive in Cairo shortly.
It was not immediately clear whether this was a reference to David Meidan, who was recently appointed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's negotiator on the Shalit issue. Meidan is due in Egypt shortly, as Haaretz reported last week.
Senior Egyptian officials expressed optimism about the chances for a deal on Shalit's release. The Egyptians have resumed mediating Shalit negotiations and have made it clear to Hamas that they want an agreement on the issue wrapped up quickly.
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