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Rally for Gilad Shalit
Photo: Ofer Amram
Ofer Dekel
Photo: Oren Agmon
Egypt: Negotiate for Shalit until there's a result
Prime Minister Olmert's envoy overseeing MIA affairs heads to Cairo for refocused negotiations with Hamas for Gilad Shalit's release. Egyptian official says both parties expected to continue talks until result finalized while Israel warns it will not be willing to pay every price

Two years after his abduction to Gaza, and with harsh rhetoric lacing the rally marking the grim milestone in his hometown, negotiations for the release of Gilad Shalit will resume on Thursday in Cairo.

 

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's personally appointed envoy overseeing MIA affairs, Ofer Dekel, is scheduled to head for Egypt in the early morning hours to launch intensive negotiations with Hamas.

 

An Egyptian official told Ynet on the eve of the renewed talks: "We expect both delegations to deliberate this matter until they achieve a result, preferably without each party constantly stepping out for consultations."

 

According to the source, Egypt is willing to provide the delegations "with all the logistical necessities so they can communicate with their superiors without having to leave Cairo and return to their countries for this."

 

Hamas, he said, understands that Egypt is interested in seeing the case closed, and therefore Israel should be able to expect some newfound flexibility in Hamas' stance on the list of prisoners it is demanding Israel free in exchange for Shalit. The source estimated that a deal could be reached within several short weeks.

 

The identity of those comprising the Hamas delegation remains unknown as of Wednesday evening.

A senior Israeli defense official told Ynet that while Israel was willing to conduct the negotiations, "but is not willing to pay every price."

 

Dekel will initially attempt to set a procedure for the talks.

 

In Jerusalem expectations are being lowered as the matter of Hamas' prisoners will likely bog down the talks.

 

"We will try to find a way to have Hamas compromise on its demands. In this situation, it will be very difficult to authorize the release of all the prisoners Hamas wants. This is undoubtedly a significant test for both sides," said the defense official.

 

Hamas keeping lid on truce

Meanwhile Hamas continues its efforts to ensure the ceasefire holds. Hamas Minister of the Interior, Said Siam, met with representatives from Gaza's Palestinian organizations to discuss future policy on dealing with 'Israeli violations' of the truce in an attempt to prevent the deterioration of the situation following Tuesday's Qassam rocket attacks, launched by the Islamic Jihad in retaliation for an IDF operation in the West Bank.

 

Hamas pointed to military action in the West Bank, and the decision not to open the border crossings after the rockets were fired, as violations of the ceasefire and said it was the right of the armed Palestinian groups to respond. It should be noted that the West Bank was not included in the ceasefire agreement.

 

"Hamas would prefer it if the responses would be in the West Bank, or even in Israel, but would like to

avoid rocket fire from Gaza as much as possible, so as not to give Israel any excuses," said a senior member of one Gaza organization.

 

According to him, Hamas understands that if it wants to see the Rafah border crossing opened, it will require progress on the Shalit front.

 

Commodity crossings between Israel and Gaza will remain closed on Thursday as well following the Qassam rockets that hit Sderot.

 

Roni Sofer contributed to this report

 

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