JERUSALEM, April 22 – Israel’s senior negotiator in Egyptian-mediated talks with the Islamist group Hamas over the release of a captured Israeli soldier resigned on Tuesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said.
Negotiator Ofer Dekel has been the point man in Israel’s efforts to free soldier Gilad Shalit, who was captured by Palestinian militants who tunnelled into Israel from the Gaza Strip in 2006.
Hamas has demanded the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Shalit.
“A short while ago, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with special envoy Ofer Dekel. Dekel asked the prime minister to release him from the position,” the prime minister’s office said in a statement.
Dekel had asked to step down earlier, but was told by then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to stay on until after Netanyahu’s government was sworn in late last month, the statement said.
Netanyahu’s office did not say who would replace Dekel.
Dekel also spearheaded a prisoner swap last year with Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas to recover the bodies of two Israeli soldiers.