Israeli official holds prisoner swap talks in Cairo

Israeli negotiator Ofer Dekel has held talks in Cairo with Egyptian mediators on a prisoner swap with the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, an Egyptian official said on Sunday.

Dekel’s visit, the second in as many weeks, was aimed at securing the release of Israel soldier Gilad Shalit, who captured by Gaza militants in a cross border raid into Israel in June 2006.

The official said Dekel left Cairo on Sunday but gave no further details.

Egypt has brokered talks between Israel and Hamas over his release for months, with the Islamists demanding freedom for more than 400 Palestinian prisoners in return.

Last month Israel’s security cabinet said Shalit’s release was a pre-requisite for the reopening of border crossings into the Gaza Strip, as part of an Egyptian-brokered truce with Hamas.

Israel has sealed off the crossings to all but vital humanitarian goods since June 2007 when Hamas seized power in the enclave, where Israel and Hamas waged a deadly three-week war in December and January.

Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported last month that Dekel had proposed to release 220 Palestinian prisoners during a visit to Egypt in February.

Meanwhile Shalit’s parents have moved into a tent outside the Jerusalem house of interim Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to pressure the Israeli government to do more to free him.

“We will stay as long as Gilad, who has been held for nearly 1,000 days, is not freed,” the conscript’s father Noam Shalit told army radio on Sunday.

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