Jerusalem In a surprise deal announced Wednesday, Hamas will give Israel a videotape providing a first glimpse of a captured Israeli soldier to prove he is alive in return for the release of 20 Palestinian women held in Israeli prisons.
It marked the first tangible sign of progress in more than three years of talks aimed at a larger prisoner exchange, and it could lead to an end to a crippling blockade of the impoverished, war-torn Gaza Strip, which is ruled by militant Islamic Hamas.
Israel said the video-for-prisoners exchange would take place Friday.
Up to now, the only signs of life from the soldier, Gilad Schalit, were several letters and an apparently carefully scripted audio tape, released just months after he was captured in June 2006. Hamas-linked militants tunneled under the Gaza-Israel border, attacked an Israeli army base from the rear, killed two soldiers and hauled a bleeding Schalit off into captivity.
Hamas is demanding the release of as many as 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for the soldier, including many convicted of deadly attacks against Israelis. Israel says it will not ease the blockade until the soldier is freed.