Netanyahu: Decision on Abducted Israeli Soldier Gilad Shalit to Be Taken in "Coming Hours"

Monday Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had told the mother of abducted Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit that ministers would make a decision in the "coming hours" on a deal with Hamas for her son's release.

"They hope the decision will be made this evening, and if not ? then tomorrow morning," Aviva Shalit told reporters in Jerusalem, where she was waiting in a protest tent opposite Netanyahu's office.

Her comments came as top cabinet members met for a fifth meeting consecutive meeting on the proposed prisoner exchange with Hamas.

Both of the abducted soldier's parents met earlier with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Noam Shalit, the father, said following the meeting that the prime minister had given the family no new updates regarding the deal with Hamas to see his son freed after three years in captivity.

"There's no drama here, I have nothing new to say," he said. "The process is ongoing and should end soon... We heard nothing new. [Netanyahu] updated us as much as he could. I am still not optimistic, nor am I pessimistic," Ha'aretz reports.

Meanwhile, the wife of missing Israel Air Force navigator Ron Arad on Monday urged the government to reach a deal for Shalit's release.

"If he fought and was taken prisoner, our moral duty is to save him," Tami Arad told Army Radio. "In my view, the decision should be reached according to an ethical code."

Her husband was captured by Lebanese militants after his plane went down over Lebanon in 1986; subsequent efforts to negotiate his release or at least determine his fate have failed.

Arad rejected the notion that Hamas would demand less from Israel if the deal were postponed to a later date. "I'm not sure there would be someone to bring back," she said.

"The fact that today they show Gilad alive doesn't say that he will be alive [then]. Ron's incident shows that when it is possible to bring someone back, you need to bring him back and not wait - because a captive's time isn't a security certificate, it's the exact opposite," Ha'aretz reports.

In the meantime, it was reported, that Egypt has rejected an appeal to allow activists to march across the border into the Gaza Strip to mark the anniversary of last year's conflict.

The Egyptian foreign ministry said the march could not be allowed because of the "sensitive situation" in Gaza.

Over 1,000 activists from 42 countries had signed-up to join "the Gaza freedom march" planned for next week.

Egypt warned that anyone attempting the crossing from Egypt would be "dealt with by the law".

Palestinians and human rights groups say more than 1,400 Gazans were killed in the violence between 27 December and 16 January, though Israel puts the figure at 1,166. Three Israeli civilians and 10 Israeli soldiers were also killed, BBC News reports.

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