Israel denies Shalit will move to Egypt

June 23, 2009 at 4:22 PM
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JERUSALEM, June 23 (UPI) -- Israel denied reports claiming kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit was to be moved to Egypt hours after a Palestinian media report claimed otherwise.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, currently in Rome, told reporters he knew nothing of the sort, Haaretz reported. The newspaper said Israeli security officials also denied the reports as well as Shalit's parents, who informed the media they had not received any news regarding their 22-year-old son,

Tuesday evening, Hamas officials in Gaza told Israel Radio they knew nothing of the report claiming Shalit would be moved to Egypt.

Shalit was kidnapped while on operational duty near the Gaza Strip June 25, 2006, and has been held captive in Gaza since.

The Palestinian news agency Ma'an initially based its reports on an Egyptian official who said the soldier would be handed over to Egyptian authorities by nightfall. It also claimed extra security personnel deployed at the Rafah border crossing seemed to "confirm the rumors," a swap was imminent.

Earlier in the day, Ma'an quoted Asharq al-Awsat, a newspaper based in London, that claimed progress had been made toward a prisoner exchange between Hamas and Israel.

The news regarding the soldier came a day after Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak returned from a visit to Cairo where he met with President Hosni Mubarak to discuss a prisoner exchange for Shalit.

Barak refused to divulge details of the meeting but said he intends to do everything in his power to bring Shalit home.

Egypt has been the chief mediator in negotiations for Shalit's release, meeting with Israeli and Hamas officials to broker a deal.

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