In the first real sign of progress in talks to free Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, Hamas has agreed to release the first video of the 23-year-old soldier captured by Gaza militants more than three years ago. In exchange for the so-called "proof of life," Israel has agreed to free 20 Palestinian women held in Israeli jails.
After approving release of the prisoners, Israel's security cabinet said the deal comes ahead of "decisive stages" in the difficult talks.
Israel's Channel 10 reported that German mediators have already seen the one-minute videotape, which is supposed to be turned over to Israeli officials on Friday.
The deal is the first significant breakthrough in talks that have bogged down largely over disagreements over which Palestinian prisoners should be freed in exchange for Shalit's freedom.
It is not clear that Israel and Hamas are any closer to resolving that underlying issue. But the tape is certain to become major news since it will offer Israel and the world the first visual evidence of how Shalit has been treated and what he looks like after three years in captivity.
A few weeks ago, Israel approved release of a letter Shalit wrote soon after his capture in which he described his situation as an "unbearable nightmare."
More than two years ago, Hamas released an audiotape of Shalit in which the young Israeli soldier said he was in poor health and in need of extended medical care.
The new video probably won't lead to a quick agreement, but it is a significant step that could set the stage for a deal.