After killing 1300 Palestinians in 22-day Gaza assault, Israel now hopes bargain over a prisoner swap for a soldier held by the Palestinians since 2006, Israeli officials said on Thursday.
They said "Israel was conditioning any lifting of its Gaza blockade on immediate progress in Egypt for Gilad Shalit, and may relax its objections to a list of Palestinian prisoners which Hamas wants released in exchange."
Hamas demands the release of 1,400 Palestinians.
"There is a sense that we can afford to relax our criteria on the prisoner release," said one Israeli security official.
The official said Prime Minister Ehud Olmert wanted to clinch a deal before he is replaced in a Feb. 10 election.
Addressing reporters on Thursday, Olmert said: "I believe that the military operation in Gaza created levers that can help in speeding the return of Gilad Shalit ... I will not elaborate."
A top Israeli defence official, Amos Gilad, travelled to Cairo on Thursday. Security sources said Gilad would raise Shalit in his talks with the Egyptians.
The Gaza offensive killed 1,300 Palestinians, with a quarter of children and wounded thousands, and destroyed the improverished strip's infrastructure.
"I'll tell you this here, in plain Hebrew: apart from (the passage of) humanitarian goods, there will be no crossings (opened) without Gilad Shalit," Ben-Eliezer said.
Last Mod: 22 Ocak 2009, 16:18