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Hamas prisoner swap ‘on course’

    The negotiations over the release of captured Israeli soldier First-Sergeant Gilad Shalit are expected to intensify this week in Cairo, a week into the fragile ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.

    The ceasefire, which began last Thursday morning, has not been without its hiccups. Though both sides observed their commitments not to launch attacks on and from the Gaza Strip, Hamas did not prevent the Islamic Jihad movement from firing three rockets at Israel on Tuesday, in retaliation to one of its senior members being killed by the IDF near Nablus in the West Bank.

    The missiles caused damage to houses in Sderot but no casualties and Israel did not respond with any military action. Instead, the Defence Ministry decided to close the crossings between Israel and Gaza for a day and not allow goods to go through. “We don’t expect the ceasefire to survive for long,” said an Israeli defence source to the JC, “but when it does disintegrate, we don’t want the blame to fall on us, and hopefully we’ll get some international backing when we launch our next operation against Hamas in Gaza.”

    The next stage of the ceasefire agreement is the opening of the Rafah Crossing between Gaza and Egypt, but on Tuesday, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert met Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Cairo, and the two agreed that the opening would not happen until the release of Gilad Shalit was agreed upon. The Egypt-brokered talks on a prisoner deal between Israel and Hamas, expected to involve hundreds of Palestinian prisoners, restarted yesterday (Thursday).

    Sergeant Shalit’s parents petitioned the Supreme Court this week in an attempt to prevent the ceasefire and force the government not to open the crossings in to Gaza until some kind of assurance is obtained regarding their son. The judges refused the petition.

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