World

Israel to decide on prisoner exchange for captive soldier

Israel's prime minister will ask top ministers to decide Monday whether to approve a deal to exchange 1,000 Palestinian prisoners for an Israeli soldier who has been in captivity in the Gaza Strip for more than three years, security officials said.

Israel's prime minister will ask top ministers to decide Monday whether to approve a deal to exchange 1,000 Palestinian prisoners for an Israeli soldier who has been in captivity in the Gaza Strip for more than three years, security officials said.

Benjamin Netanyahu and six ministers met several times Sunday, continuing discussions late into the night.

With the group divided over the deal, Netanyahu could well bring the final decision to a vote in his full cabinet.

Sgt. Gilad Schalit, 23, was abducted by militants affiliated with Gaza's Hamas rulers 3½ years ago.

Israel has been reluctant to meet Hamas's demand to release dozens of Palestinians involved in deadly attacks on Israelis, and years of Egyptian-mediated talks have failed to produce a swap deal.

Momentum picked up in recent months with the introduction of a German mediator into the talks.

Israeli security officials said Israel's military chief supports the proposed deal, while other security chiefs insist that Palestinians convicted of murder be deported to blockaded Gaza or other countries rather than returned to the West Bank.

Parents hopeful decision comes soon

The security officials spoke on condition of anonymity because military regulations forbid them from talking to the media.

Some prisoners released to Palestinian territories in past deals resumed their violent struggle against Israel.

Schalit's parents were scheduled to meet Netanyahu on Monday morning, but the soldier's mother said they had been informed that the meeting was postponed until after Netanyahu's top ministers reach a decision.

"We will probably get the answer at the end of the talks," Aviva Schalit told Israel's Army Radio.

"I hope that they will decide today, and that everyone who votes understands that their vote means either a death sentence for Gilad or that he will be set free," she said.