GAZA, (Reuters) – A letter written by abducted Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was given to his family by Gaza militants in a potential breakthrough after nearly three months in captivity, a source involved in the talks said on Friday.
The letter written in Shalit’s handwriting is the first tangible sign of life since militants from the governing Hamas group and two other factions seized him in a cross-border raid on June 25, prompting an Israeli offensive.
“The abducted soldier wrote the letter by his own handwriting to his parents telling them he is fine and well,” the source told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The source said the letter was handed to Egyptian mediators in Gaza, who then handed it over to Shalit’s family. The letter appears to have been written earlier this week, the source said.
Asked about the letter, Shalit’s father, Noam, told Reuters: “I wouldn’t comment about this issue. It’s too sensitive to talk about in the media.”
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s spokeswoman, Miri Eisin, declined to comment.
The letter could be a sign of progress in efforts to free Shalit. His release could clear the way for improved relations with Israel and the international community.
The Palestinians hope a new unity government led by Hamas will ease an aid embargo that has increased poverty.
Shalit’s abductors had vowed not to release any information about his fate until Israel agreed to free Palestinian prisoners.
Asked what the factions received in exchange for the letter, the official declined to comment, but said: “Who said it was not for a price? It was for a price.”
The Popular Resistance Committees and the Army of Islam joined Hamas’s armed wing in carrying out the cross-border raid in which Shalit was captured.
After Shalit’s capture, Israel launched a major military offensive in the Gaza Strip that has killed more than 210 Palestinians, about half of them civilians.
Israeli forces also took at least 30 Hamas officials into custody.
An Israeli military judge earlier this week ordered the release of 21 of them.