Israel on Friday freed 19 Palestinian women from its jails in return for a video showing proof that a captured Israeli soldier is alive. "There is active movement, and there is an energetic German role and we hope to be close to achieving the deal that would please us all," he told Reuters.
A 2-minute video of an Israeli soldier for the past three years shows him healthy and coherent and speaking to the camera, Israeli officials said on Friday.
He was holding a newspaper dated Sept, 14, in the classic proof of life gesture, said one official who saw the video.
Recorded images of Gilad Shalit, 23, were handed over in exchange for Israel's release of 20 Palestinian women from its jails, one of whom brought home a 20-month-old boy born in prison to a joyful reception in Gaza.
The swap with Hamas, brokered by German and Egyptian diplomacy, could be a step towards a larger prisoner exchange and the release of Shalit.
"The success of the resistance in achieving this deal heralds further success in achieving a further deal," said Osama Al-Muzaini, a senior Hamas official close to the negotiations.
Israeli officials said the video of Shalit was authenticated before 19 of the women were released. A copy was to be viewed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the parents of Shalit before any decision to make it public.
The video was handed over as a convoy of Red Cross jeeps carried 18 freed women prisoners over the Beitunya checkpoint into the West Bank. The 19th was taken into the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip with her baby, and the final prisoner in the swap was due to be released on Sunday.
In both the West Bank and Gaza, the first stop for the liberated women was government headquarters, where official receptions and celebrations were prepared.
Baby born in Israel jail
On the Gaza side of Israel's Erez Checkpoint, hundreds of Palestinians waving the green Hamas flag, the black banners of Islamic Jihad and the Palestinian national colours joined a convoy into the Mediterranean coast city with sirens wailing.
Hamas prime minister in Gaza Ismail Haniyeh sent his official car to pick up 40-year-old Fatima al-Zaq and son Youssef and bring them direct from the border to his office.
The baby was snatched from her arms in a media frenzy and passed overhead wailing into the embrace of Haniyeh, who held up the boy for the crowd and kissed him.
The al-Zaq house was decorated with posters and flags.
"We feel wonderful," said her husband Mohammed, who is a member of Islamic Jihad. "People are celebrating with us, from all factions ... the prisoners' release unites us."
Israel holds more than 10,000 Palestinian prisoners. Hamas is negotiating for the release of hundreds of its members in exchange for Shalit.
Israel on Friday freed 19 Palestinian women from its jails in return for a video showing proof that a captured Israeli soldier is alive.
"There is active movement, and there is an energetic German role and we hope to be close to achieving the deal that would please us all," he told Reuters.