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Is freedom near for captive Israeli soldier?

Hamas says that Gilad Shalit could be released in a week, but terms of a deal with Israel keep shifting.

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Prisoner: Comrades of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit (pictured) called for his release at a Tel Aviv rally last month.

Amir Cohen/Reuters

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More than two years after Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was captured by Gaza militants in a cross-border raid, he is being used more than ever as a pawn in the battle between Israel, Hamas, and Fatah over the future of the impoverished coastal strip.

On Tuesday, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said that the recent cease-fire between Israel and Hamas that calmed fighting along Gaza's border should be used to push for Mr. Shalit's return. And the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that Hamas Foreign Minister Mahmoud al-Zahar said a prisoner swap in exchange for Shalit, believed to be alive and held inside Gaza, could conclude within a week.

But the reality remains complex and ever-changing. Hamas vacillates between suspending and reopening Egyptian-led negotiations over the fate of the soldier, and talks are now caught up in the terms of the Israel-Hamas truce and stymied by the internal Palestinian power struggle between rivals Hamas and Fatah.

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