A German mediator gave Hamas on Wednesday an Israeli answer to a proposed swap freeing hundreds of Palestinians in Israeli jails for a captured soldier, and the group said it would need days to review the new draft.
Signalling a possible breakthrough, a Hamas official said he expected the group to send a delegation from the Gaza Strip to Damascus by Thursday to meet exiled Hamas leaders. Such rare conferences are reserved by Hamas for important policymaking.
Under the proposed exchange, about 1,000 of the some 11,000 Palestinians held in Israeli prisons would be released.
Officials familiar with the negotiations said Israel is unwilling to release a handful of top Palestinians Israel gave life sentences.
Israel was also intent on barring between 100 and 120 other Palestinians from returning to the West Bank, will deport them abroad.
"We have received the Israeli response from the German mediator and it will be studied within a few days," a Hamas official said. "A delegation from the group in Gaza will leave for Syria for a broader discussion."
Israel Radio said the German mediator -- an intelligence officer whose name is barred from publication -- had left Gaza and was expected to fly home and await word on whether to return to the region to seal a deal.
Israeli media have said the swap with Hamas would likely be concluded next year, if at all.
Last Mod: 23 Aralık 2009, 15:58