Exiled Hamas Leader Says Kidnapped Israeli Soldier Alive and Well

A spokesman for Khaled Mashaal said Saturday that the exiled Hamas leader told an interviewer that an Israeli soldier held by Hamas-allied militants in the Gaza Strip was alive and well.

Mashaal said in a cable news interview Friday that Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who was captured over a year ago, was "alive and in good health," reported the spokesman, speaking on condition of anonymity.

A young corporal, Shalit was seized June 25, 2006, by a squad of radical Islamic militants linked to Hamas, who tunneled into Israel near an army base from the Gaza Strip.

Two other soldiers were killed in the raid. His abductors released an audio tape from Shalit on the anniversary of his capture, in which he said his health was deteriorating after a year in custody.

Egypt has been negotiating between Hamas and Israel for the release of the soldier. But Hamas has demanded the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel in exchange for Shalit's freedom. Israel has balked at meeting the demand.