September 5, 2006

Israeli soldier-swap deal reached: paper

MANAMA (Reuters) - Israel and the Palestinians have reached
an agreement to swap the Israeli soldier held hostage in Gaza
with imprisoned Palestinians, Palestinian President Mahmoud
Abbas was quoted on Tuesday as saying.

Abbas told Bahrain's Akhbar al-Khaleej newspaper soldier
Gilad Shalit would first be handed over to Egypt.

"An agreement has been reached about exchanging prisoners
that is based on Egypt taking the soldier as a deposit, and
after that the number of Palestinian prisoners-of-war would be
announced," Abbas said in the interview.

Israeli media quoted Israeli officials as saying they "know
nothing of such a breakthrough."

A senior official said on Tuesday Israeli Prime Minister
Ehud Olmert would seek a meeting with Abbas if the gunmen in
the Gaza Strip released the soldier.

The gunmen abducted the soldier in a cross-border raid on
June 25. Israel subsequently started a major offensive in Gaza
to release him which has so far killed more than 200
Palestinians, about half of them civilians.