German Mediator Returns to Gaza to Negotiate for Shalit Release

Senior Hamas official tells Al-Hayat that Gerhard Conrad presented a number of new ideas, but refuses to elaborate expect to say that Hamas insisting Israel agree to release all prisoners it had demanded in official list.

The German mediator negotiating for the release of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit has concluded a two-day visit to the Gaza Strip where he held talks with senior Hamas leaders, the Al-Hayat daily reported on Thursday.

Gerhard Conrad presented a series of new ideas to Hamas in a renewed effort to reach a deal with Israel over a prisoner swap that would see Shalit freed after more than four years in Palestinian captivity, a top Hamas official told the daily.

Gilad Shalit

The official did not elaborate on what those ideas entailed, but said that Hamas would remain firm in its insistence that Israel free every prisoner that it demanded on a list it presented earlier in the negotiations.

Hamas wants some 1,400 prisoners released from Israeli jails in return for handing over the soldier, who was captured in a cross-border raid in June 2006.

Israel has balked at a number of the names on Hamas' list - which includes some responsible for deadly terror attacks in Israel - agreeing to free around 980 prisoners.

Negotiations have stalled numerous times. Hamas last year accused Israel of changing its stance over points to which it had already agreed. Hamas sources have said  that Israel is delaying the completion of the Shalit deal by refusing to release 50 Hamas officials it holds in its jails.