IDF Cpl. Gilad Shalit
IDF Cpl. Gilad ShalitIsrael News Photo: (archive)

Israel has insisted that Hamas return kidnapped IDF Cpl. Gilad Shalit before the government frees hundreds of Arab terrorists, according to a report published Monday in the London-based Arabic daily newspaper A-Sharq Al-Awsat.

The report said Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman told Hamas that Israel has withdrawn from a previous understanding that it would release terrorists who are serving long prison terms without receiving Shalit.

However, a spokesman for the Prime Minister's Office would not confirm or deny the matter, and refused to discuss the issue when asked to verify the facts.

David Baker, spokesman for the Prime Minister's Office, said in a terse statement, "This office has no comment on that report. We have no further comment on the Shalit issue at all."

The newspaper quoted a Palestinian Authority (PA) source as saying that Suleiman claimed Israel would also not release terrorists who were convicted of murdering soldiers or Jews who lived in communities located in Gaza, Judea or Samaria.

The source also said Israel had reneged on a deal to release female prisoners, including Amna Muna, who lured 16-year-old Ofir Nahum to his death in January 2001.

It was believed, said the source, that Israel had toughened its stance as a bargaining gambit ahead of talks in Cairo in order to "lower Hamas's expectations."

Shalit's Father: Where is PA Chairman Abbas?

Noam Shalit, father of kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, pointed out shortly after noon Monday that PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas had a full year to try to free his son before Hamas took over authority over Gaza. He added that Abbas has not made any efforts to intervene on Shalit's behalf.

The elder Shalit also told Voice of Israel government radio that his son is no closer to being freed despite the three-week-old temporary ceasefire agreement that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said was tied to freeing the soldier.

Noam Shalit also expressed disappointment at a statement by the Prime Minister in Paris on Monday that he is prepared to release more Arab terrorists as a "goodwill gesture" to Abbas, but that Olmert made no mention of the captive soldier.

After Shalit was kidnapped two years ago, the Prime Minister vowed that he would bring about his release and stated several times that no negotiations would be held to free Arab terrorists.