Negotiations for Prisoner Swap Continue

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JERUSALEM, Israel - Following a Monday night meeting on the prisoner swap for IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, which lasted till midnight, Israel sent its response to Hamas, the Palestinian faction ruling the Gaza Strip, via the German mediator, Israel Radio reported.

Hamas acknowledged receipt of the response, but has yet to issue its answer.

Palestinian terrorists kidnapped Shalit in a cross-border attack on an army outpost near the Kerem Shalom crossing with the Gaza Strip.

Two soldiers were killed and three others wounded when Palestinians tunneled under the security fence and attacked the outpost on June 25, 2006.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak, part of the seven-member team, made the only public comment on Tuesday in remarks to high school students in Rishon Lezion outside Tel Aviv.

"This is a sensitive time and it would be wrong to expound on the topic, but we, who sent Gilad, feel responsible…to make every feasible and worthy move to bring Gilad home, though not at any price," Barak said.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has said little publicly about details of the negotiations. Hamas, on the other hand, has issued a series of statements via the media.

An unnamed Palestinian official claimed Hamas has set a Wednesday deadline to reach an agreement. This latest ultimatum comes after more than three years of Egyptian-mediated negotiations, which produced little more than threats.

According to Palestinian sources, Marwan Barghouti, former head of the PA's Fatah-affiliated Tanzim militia, serving five consecutive life sentences for murder, would be free to return to his home in Ramallah.

In actuality, three mass murderers being considered for release are Abdullah Barghouti, Abbas al-Sayyad and Ibrahim Hamad, all serving life sentences for killing scores of Israelis. Hamad, for example, was personally involved in the deaths of 82 Israelis.

According to some sources, Israel has demanded that 130 of the prisoners slated for release, including Barghouti, al-Sayyad and Hamad, will not be permitted to return to PA-controlled areas.

On Monday evening, after meeting with the prime minister, Shalit's parents, Noam and Aviva, returned to the protest tent outside Netanyahu's Jerusalem residence.

"They hope the decision will be made this evening and if not then, tomorrow morning," Shalit's mother told reporters outside the tent.

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The Jerusalem Post and Haaretz contributed to this report.

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