If it’s Israeli propaganda, it’s oddly placed: a Palestinian news source broke the story, claiming that Assad panicked after the IAF buzzed his house last week and told Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal to let Gilad Shalit go. Mashaal allegedly refused and hopped a plane for Algeria together with some of his aides.

Sounds too good to be true, and yet:

The al-Arabiya TV news network later said that a senior Syrian source confirmed that Hamas politburo head Khaled Mashaal and other senior Hamas members have left Syria.

According to the report, the senior source in Syria reported that Mashaal left the country three days ago. The station cited Hamas sources denying the report, however.

Hamas sources in Gaza are denying it too. But then, they would, wouldn’t they?

Coincidentally, Shalit’s captors have relaxed some of their demands tonight. Israel says they know he’s still alive, but an Israeli expert on international law concedes that Shalit isn’t a POW for purposes of the Geneva Conventions. He’s not being held by a state, you see. He is, however, entitled to some basic rights under Article 3 of the Conventions — and if that sounds familiar, it should: it’s the same provision that now applies to the jihadis at Gitmo thanks to the Supreme Court’s decision in Hamdan.