Hamas 'feared Shalit would die before deal'

Hamas, the Palestinian group which held the captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, raced to reach a deal for his freedom after he went on hunger strike, an Israeli newspaper claimed.

Sgt-Maj Shalit, who was held in a secret location in Gaza for five years, tried to starve himself, prompting a rapid deterioration in his physical condition, the Yedioth Ahronot reported.

Unable to move him for treatment lest they give away his location to Israeli intelligence, his captors were apparently persuaded to compromise in a deal that saw Israel promise to free more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for his liberty on 18 October. "There were those in Hamas who feared the extreme conditions under which Shalit was held would mean they could not offer him the help he needed and he would die," an Israeli intelligence official told the newspaper.

Shalit, 25, was a corporal when he was captured by Hamas in 2006. Israeli efforts to Locate him failed.