Informed Palestinian sources reported that the Prisoners’ Swap deal, through which Israel will release a number of Palestinian prisoners in exchange for the release of the captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, is advancing positively.

According to the source, Israeli officials are considering a proposal to conduct the swap deal in three stages, the first of which will include moving Shalit from the Gaza Strip to Egypt. Meanwhile, Israeli military sources hinted that Israel may back down from its initial stance of refusing to release Palestinian prisoners charged with killing Israelis.

Shalit was captured by Palestinian resistance fighters on June 25th 2006 in a military operation that targeted an Israeli military base at Karm Abu Salem (Kerem Shaolm) south of the Gaza Strip, following the assassination of resistance leaders in the Strip by Israeli forces.

In response, Israel launched a long term military offensive against the Gaza Strip which resulted in serious damage to the infrastructure in the Gaza Strip. Negotiations to release Shalit started shortly after he was captured. However, Israel continues to attack the Gaza Strip.

Apparently the Israeli military action could not retrieve the 19-year-old private, which forced Israel to resort again to diplomacy. Palestinian resistance groups holding Shalit requested that Israel release all women and children in Israeli jails in exchange of the release of Shalit. Currently some 11 thousand Palestinians are in Israeli jails waiting to be released. The vast majority have been imprisoned without trial.