Hamas frees Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit after five years, in return for over 1000 Palestinians (+ analysis); Shalit hopes release will "advance peace"; South Korea finally clear to approve US free-trade deal; Germany plays down talk of EU "solution"; Pakistan puts conditions on Taliban talks; Al-Shabab tells Kenyans to leave Somalia or else; and more

Top of the Agenda: Hamas Frees Israeli Soldier

Palestinian militant group Hamas freed Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit after holding him captive for five years (NYT) in the Gaza Strip. The move was part of an agreement between Hamas and Israel, which will release over one thousand Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Shalit.

Shalit was initially handed over to Egyptian officials at the Rafah border crossing (al-Jazeera) between Gaza and Egypt, and then transported to Israel's Tel Nof air base. Israel has so far freed 477 Palestinian prisoners as part of the deal.

Shalit, who was captured in 2006 during a cross-border raid by Hamas, said he hoped the prisoner swap would "advance peace" (LAT) between Israelis and Palestinians.

Egypt's transitional military government is credited with engineering the deal (Guardian), despite the country's deteriorating relations with Israel following the overthrow of president Hosni Mubarak in February.

Analysis

As momentous as the release of Shalit and 477 Palestinian prisoners may be, it is unlikely to be a game-changer--or a milestone on the road to peace, writes TIME's Tony Karon.

There is no way around the contradictions inherent in Israel's decision to free over one thousand prisoners in order to liberate Shalit, writes CFR's Elliott Abrams in The Weekly Standard.

In this CFR Video, CFR's Robert Danin identifies the winners and losers in the deal brokered between Israel and Hamas to secure Shalit's release.

This CFR Crisis Guide offers an in-depth, multimedia look at the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and its geopolitical repercussions.

 

PACIFIC RIM

North Korea, US Hold Talks over War Remains

North Korea and the United States are holding talks in Bangkok on resurrecting a joint operation to recover the remains of US troops (BBC) killed during the Korean War. The countries will also meet in Geneva next week to negotiate resuming multilateral talks to end the North's nuclear weapons program.

This CFR Independent Task Force Report identifies three elements of an internationally coordinated response to the threat posed by North Korea.

SOUTH KOREA: President Lee Myung-bak called on parliament to speedily approve a free-trade agreement (Yonhap) with the United States. The long-stalled deal was approved last week by the US Congress.

Even though Presidents Lee and Obama reaffirmed bilateral relations and celebrated congressional approval of a long-pending free trade deal, they must now focus on difficult challenges ahead, including North Korea and China, explains this CFR Analysis Brief.

 

ELSEWHERE:

Germany plays down expectations of EU breakthrough

Pakistan minister tells Taliban to disarm

Al-Shabab threatens Kenya over Somalia

 

This is an excerpt of the CFR.org Daily News Brief. The full version is available on CFR.org.

 

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