Egyptian mediators have presented Hamas and other militant groups with a new proposal aimed at ending a six-week-old standoff over an Israel Defense Forces soldier seized near the Gaza strip, Hamas officials said on Tuesday.
A source close to the negotiations said the proposal called for Hamas to transfer Corporal Gilad Shalit to Egyptian authorities in return for Israel's release of up to 600 Palestinian prisoners, including some women and minors.
Another group of Palestinian prisoners, including many who have served longer sentences, would be freed by Israel at a later date.
Israel has so far rejected any prisoner swap for Shalit, who was captured by gunmen from Hamas and other groups in a cross-border raid on June 25.
"A new offer was made to the Hamas movement by the Egyptian security delegation in Gaza," Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told reporters, declining to discuss the proposal's contents.
He said the militant groups would not back down from demands that Palestinian prisoners be released in exchange for Shalit.
"Hamas is still committed to its demand that there must be reciprocity in time and action," Abu Zuhri said.
He also stressed the group was insisting that those freed fell under the categories of prisoners specified by the three militant factions holding Shalit.
Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas met in Gaza on Tuesday with Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas.
Haniyeh said last week that he hoped a deal over Shalit could be reached soon, though he offered no details.
A senior Palestinian official said Qatar had recently stepped in to help mediate between Israel and Hamas.
"Israel has made new offers to Hamas via the Qataris in return for Shalit," the official said.
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