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Hamas leader: Captured Israeli soldier alive and well

  • Story Highlights
  • Cpl. Gilad Shalit is alive, exiled Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal tells CNN
  • Hamas has been negotiating for release of Palestinian prisoners, Meshaal says
  • Shalit said his health was deteriorating in audiotape message released in June
  • Shalit was captured during a raid on an Israeli army post on June 25, 2006
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DAMASCUS, Syria (CNN) -- Israeli soldier Cpl. Gilad Shalit -- captured by Hamas more than a year ago -- is alive and well, the exiled leader of Hamas told CNN Friday.

Israeli Cpl. Gilad Shalit was captured in June 2006.

Hamas has been negotiating for the release of Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Shalit through an Egyptian intermediary, Khaled Meshaal told CNN senior international correspondent Nic Robertson.

Hamas has also reached out to Shalit's father to tell him his son is well and that Hamas gave him eyeglasses when he requested them, Meshaal said in his first interview with Western television in two years.

Shalit, however, said in an audiotape message released in June that his health was getting worse.

"It's been a hard year in prison, and my health situation is deteriorating, and I am in need of long-term hospitalization," he said in the message, posted on a Hamas Web site and played on Israeli TV.

Hamas militants captured Shalit during a raid on an Israeli army post near the Israel-Gaza-Egypt border on June 25, 2006, according to Israel Defense Forces. Two other Israeli soldiers were killed in the assault.

Shalit was 19 at the time.

Meshaal said Hamas has put forward a list of 350 Palestinians they want released from Israeli jails, but he blamed Israel for the breakdown of talks.

An Israeli envoy traveled to Egypt last month with a list of Hamas prisoners the Israelis would be willing to release, an Egyptian official said. While Israel has given up Palestinian prisoners in the past, Israel has also said it will not release certain prisoners accused of having carried out terrorist attacks.

Meshaal cited Israel's willingness to release Palestinian robbers and such, but not leaders, as one reason negotiations have broken down.

Among the prisoners Hamas wants released is Marwan Barghouti, a Fatah leader serving five life sentences. He was convicted in 2004 on five counts of murder stemming from three al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades attacks that killed Israelis. He was also sentenced to 40 years in prison on an attempted murder charge from a failed suicide car bomb.

Hamas and Fatah are rivals for the leadership of the Palestinian territories. Hamas won control of the Palestinian parliament and government in January 2006 elections. In June, Hamas fighters wrested control of Gaza from Fatah security forces, prompting Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah to replace the Hamas leadership with an emergency government.

Last month, Israel released about 250 Palestinian prisoners -- most from Fatah and none from Hamas -- as part of a series of goodwill gestures designed to bolster Abbas in his standoff against Hamas.


In the audiotape released in June, Shalit said he was "disappointed by the lack of interest on the part of the Israeli government and army."

Weeks after Shalit's capture, Hezbollah militants launched a cross-border raid from Lebanon north of Israel and kidnapped two Israeli soldiers, touching off the war between Israel and Hezbollah. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

All About Gilad ShalitHezbollahHamasFatah OrganizationMahmoud Abbas

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