Hamas military chief in Cairo for Shalit swap talks
Positive developments on a prisoner exchange for Gilad Shalit continued to emerge yesterday with news that Ahmed Jabari, the Gaza head of Hamas's military wing, had arrived Cairo in recent days for talks on a prisoner swap.
Jabari, who was accompanied by top Hamas figure Mahmoud Zahar and two other advisers, is considered the leading Hamas figure on prisoner exchange talks.
He is nicknamed the "chief of staff" due to his complete control over the group's military wing, although he recently extended his influence into its political arm. Jabari is reportedly the only Hamas figure authorized to either approve or reject any prospective deal.
Israeli negotiator Haggai Hadas met yesterday with relatives of the captive soldier to update them on recent developments in the negotiations. After meeting with Hadas, Noam Shalit, the soldier's father, told Haaretz, "There are no updates or developments other than what we're hearing in the media."
On press reports that a prisoner exchange could be sealed in the coming weeks, Noam Shalit said, "That's all speculation."
The Web site of the Palestinian news agency Ma'an, and several other Arabic-language sites, reported yesterday that a German mediator between Israel and Hamas had contributed to significant progress toward the signing of a swap deal.
The Internet reports indicated that the mediator visited Israel and Egypt earlier this week, and even made progress on agreeing on the countries to which Palestinian prisoners in Israel would be sent - namely Syria, Sudan and several European states. A German government spokesperson yesterday declined to respond to media reports of the country's mediation between Israel and Hamas, or to divulge any names of possible mediators. The German foreign ministry also refused to comment on the matter.
Also yesterday, Israel's ambassador to the United Nations, Gabriela Shalev, said that "the option exists" for a trilateral September summit in New York between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, U.S. President Barack Obama and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Shalev said the meeting could be held on the margins of the UN General Assembly once it reconvenes next month.
Shalev later told Haaretz that she wished to convey the "option for a trilateral summit," and not that such a meeting was being planned.