`Israel ready to free 1,000 prisoners for Shalit`

The prisoner exchange proposal was made by German mediators to Israel and Hamas in February.

Jerusalem: Israel remains ready to free 1,000 Palestinian prisoners for Gilad Shalit, according to the captive soldier`s father who demanded on Thursday that any UN vote on Palestinian statehood be tied to his release.

Noam Shalit indicated that many Palestinian detainees were only being held by Israel because of the dispute with Hamas over his son, now 25, who was grabbed by gunmen from Hamas and two other militant groups on June 25, 2006.

"Israel is ready to release 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in exchange of my son. So Israel is not asking for Gilad for free," Noam Shalit told reporters at the end of a visit to the United Nations to lobby ambassadors.

The prisoner exchange proposal was made by German mediators to Israel and Hamas in February, but Noam Shalit said the Palestinian side rejected this.

"After a deal will be carried out, hopefully very soon, Israel will be happy to free many other Palestinian prisoners that from my point of view are not relevant anymore," the father added in an indication of the importance that Israel has put on the soldier`s release.

"The captivity of Gilad prevents the release of many, many Palestinian prisoners unfortunately," he said.

The father said he had spoken to the ambassadors of several countries at the UN to urge that any vote on Palestinian statehood at the UN General Assembly include a condition that Gilad Shilat be released.

The Palestinian leadership has said it will go to the UN Security Council or General Assembly this month to see a vote giving formal membership to a Palestinian state, or super observer status.

Bureau Report

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