New­push in Shalit me­di­a­tion

The Jewish Chronicle - - World News - BY YAAKOV KATZ JERUSALEM

IN AN ef­fort to re­new ne­go­ti­a­tions with Ha­mas for the release of cap­tured sol­dier Gi­lad Shalit, De­fence Min­is­ter Ehud Barak dis­patched a se­nior aide to Cairo this week for talks with Egypt.

Cairo has me­di­ated be­tween Is­rael and Ha­mas since Mr Shalit was cap­tured in a cross-bor­der at­tack in June 2006. Since Is­rael’s pris­oner swap with Hizbol­lah in July, how­ever, talks have been frozen.

On Sun­day, Maj-Gen (ret) Amos Gi­lad, head of the MOD’s Diplo­matic-Se­cu­rity Bureau, flew to Cairo for talks with Egyp­tian in­tel­li­gence chief Omar Suleiman, tasked by Pres­i­dent Hosni Mubarak with the me­di­a­tion.

The ne­go­ti­a­tions stalled over the sum­mer af­ter Ha­mas said it would only release Mr Shalit in ex­change for 1,400 pris­on­ers. Three weeks ago, Is­rael an­nounced that it was pre­pared to release 450 pris­on­ers in the ex­change.

Mr Suleiman has been work­ing on for­mu­lat­ing a deal that would in­clude a pris­oner swap as well as the re-open­ing of the Rafah Cross­ing be­tween Egypt and Gaza. Last week, Mr Suleiman met Ha­mas rep­re­sen­ta­tives in Cairo to dis­cuss the deal.

De­fence of­fi­cials said that time was run­ning out to bring Mr Shalit home.

“The longer we wait the more dif­fi­cult it will be to strike a deal with Ha­mas,” one of­fi­cial said. “The cease­fire in Gaza is frag­ile and could col­lapse any day. If that hap­pens, there will not be any di­a­logue with Ha­mas over Shalit’s release.”

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