Hamas Militants Deliver Letter to Captive Israeli Soldier

Palestinian militant group Hamas has passed on a "personal" letter to captive Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit from his family, his father Noam and a Hamas spokesman said on Friday.

It was the first letter to reach him from his family, although Schalit has been able to send a trickle of messages home since he was snatched by Palestinian militants in a cross-border raid near Gaza in June 2006.

The letter was given to the soldier last month, said Hamas spokesman Ayman Taha.

Noam Schalit said the letter was "personal" and did not detail its contents.

Taha said Noam Schalit gave the letter to French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who gave it to Qatari officials. Qatar passed it onto Syrian officials who gave it to Hamas leader Khaled Mashal, who transferred it to the group's militant leaders inside the Gaza Strip.

In the past, Hamas militants have allowed Noam Schalit in the past to send a pair of eyeglasses to Gilad, who holds French citizenship.

Taha said passing on the letter was a "humanitarian gesture" but said there were no plans, so far, to allow more mail to pass between the family and their captured son.

Egyptian-mediated efforts to arrange a prisoner swap have stalled over bickering between Hamas and Israel over the numbers of Palestinian prisoners Hamas demands that the Jewish state should release in exchange for Schalit.