IDF soldiers plan an operation
IDF soldiers plan an operationIsrael news photo: IDF Spokesperson

Israel knows exactly where kidnapped IDF St. Sgt. Gilad Shalit is being held captive and has the location under constant surveillance, according to a senior Israeli defense official quoted in a report published over the weekend by Arabic international daily A-sharq al-Awsat.

The fear that Shalit might get hurt or killed is preventing the launching of an operation to storm the location, said the report. In addition, Hamas is aware that Israel knows Shalit’s location and has responded by surrounding the area with explosives in a 400-500 meter radius and issued a directive to kill the soldier if Israel attacks.

"We knew exactly about the secret Iranian nuclear reactor in Qom before any Western intelligence body, and we knew about the Syrian reactor. Is it possible that we wouldn't know where Shalit is?" allegedly challenged former senior military members - who prefer a military operation to free Shalit - during an informal discussion on prisoner exchange talks.

"We don't want to repeat what happened with the attempted evacuation of captured soldier Nachshon Wachsman," A-sharq al-Awsat reported their military source as responding. Wachsman was kidnapped near his home by Hamas in 1994 and held near Ramallah until he was killed by his captors during an Israeli rescue attempt. The commander of the Israeli rescue force was also killed.

Following Friday’s completion of a swap of 20 female Palestinian Authority convicted terrorist prisoners for a recent videotape of Shalit, Senior Hamas official Mahmoud al-Zahar said that Shalit will be “set free within weeks or two months at most.” The tape-prisoner exchange is believed to be the first stage in a larger collective effort by Israel, Hamas and German mediators.

In an interview with the German weekly Der Spiegel, Zahar said “Hamas wants to wrap up negotiations as soon as possible."