Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu confirmed that a deal has been reached with the Hamas terrorist organization to bring home kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit. The two-stage arrangement would exchange a total of 1,027 Palestinian militants for the soldier that had been kidnapped in June 2006.
"There was great tension between bringing Schalit home...and maintaining the security of Israeli citizens," Netanyahu said on Israeli television. He was also quoted saying "the window has been opened for a historic deal," following a show of flexibility in negotiations by both sides.
Schalit's freedom is a matter of days, Netanyahu said.
"We are waiting here like everyone else," Schalit's father Noam Schalit said Tuesday. "We are receiving updates, but we don't really know anything new other than what has been published."
As part of the deal, Israel agreed to first release roughly 450 terrorists, with another 550 to follow at a later date. Netanyahu convened a cabinet meeting to approve of the plan, with various reports attributing the breakthrough to German or Egyptian intervention.
Hamas reacted jubilantly to the plan, with a celebratory graphic posted on the home page of the Izz al-Deen Qassam Brigade, Hamas's military wing.
"This is a national achievement for the Palestinian people, we tried to include all Palestinian detainees in the Israeli jails, and we promise the rest of the Palestinian detainees to liberate them," said Khaled Meshaal, the head of the Hamas Political Bureau. "My Appreciations to Ezzedeen Al Qassam Brigades and the Palestinian factions which managed to capture the Israeli soldier Shalit, My thanks to the Palestinian people in Gaza Strip and the West Bank for their steadfastness against the Israeli siege, also my thanks to the Egyptian role in accomplishing this deal."