Hamas Source: Shalit Swap Efforts Still Alive

Source quoted by Ma'an news agency comes after earlier this year a Gaza Hamas delegation reportedly discussed a possible prisoner exchange deal with group political heads in Damascus.

Hamas and Israel are engaged in ongoing efforts to form a prisoner-exchange deal that would secure the release of abducted Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit, a Hamas source told the Palestinian Ma'an news agency on Friday.

In January, the London-based newspaper Al-Hayat reported that a delegation of Hamas strongmen reportedly discussed the latest proposal for a prisoner exchange deal with organization political chiefs in Damascus.

A painting depicting Gilad Shait in Gaza

Earlier that month, Al-Hayat reported that the German Shalit talks mediator Gerhard Conrad concluded a two-day visit to the Gaza Strip where he held talks with senior Hamas leaders.

A top Hamas official told the daily at the time that Conrad had reportedly 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.

Referring to the efforts to secure Shalit's release, an informed Hamas source told Ma'an on Friday that the German mediator was still involved the negotiations.

Earlier this month, Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin said that the 2009 round of negotiations with Hamas for Shalit's release failed as the Hamas did not stop their demands, and accepting them would lead to "a slippery slope."

”The Hamas members who were part of the delegation in Cairo did not want to stop [raising heir demands] at any point," Diskin said at an event marking 30 days to the death of journalist, editor and Israel Prize laureate Dov Yudkovsky in Tel Aviv.

"They were certain that no matter what demands they placed, the public pressure would lead to their acceptance," he said, adding that "at some point I knew it was a slippery slope."

Hamas wants some 1,400 prisoners released from Israeli jails in return for handing over the Shalit, who was captured in a cross-border raid in June 2006 and has remained in Hamas custody since then.