Israel is trying to engage former U.S. President Bill Clinton to help mediate a prisoner exchange deal with Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip and is in possession of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, a media report said.

Israel’s hawkish Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met Mr. Clinton during his US visit early this week and proposed that he visit Gaza to negotiate a prisoner exchange deal with top Hamas officials that would lead to the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners incarcerating in Israeli jails in exchange for Shalit, Palestinian news agency Ma’am, reported.

Shalit was captured in a cross border attack in June 2006 which led to Israel tightening its noose over the 1.5 million populated coastal territories facing severe shortage of necessary goods.

Hamas leaders haven’t received any information on Mr. Clinton’s potential visit, but an official of the Islamist faction, Ahmed Yousef, told journalists that his group “welcomes every effort to expose Israeli crimes against the population of Gaza.”

“The government is open to the world through contact with Western officials, who are well briefed on the suffering of the Palestinian people,” Yousef was quoted by the agency as saying.

Meanwhile, demands for a prisoner exchange to release Shalit has gained momentum in Israel with thousands of citizens participating in a 12-day march led by the soldier’s parents.

A German mediator has so far been trying to negotiate a prisoner exchange deal between Israel and Hamas, with Egypt’s help, but has failed to work out a formula that satisfies both sides.

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