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Suleiman: Major IDF op expected if Shalit isn't released

Egyptian intelligence chief meets with deputy Hamas politburo chief in Cairo, demands movement relax its conditions in terms of prisoner swap deal. Otherwise, he says, Israel will launch wide-scale offensive against Palestinian factions in Gaza

Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman has warned deputy Hamas politburo chief Moussa Abu Marzouk that if kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit is not released Israel will launch a major offensive in Gaza, the Lebanese newspaper al-Akhbar reported Saturday, quoting Palestinian sources.

 

According to the sources, Suleiman said that the Israel Defense Forces would carry out severe attacks against the Hamas movement and the other Palestinian factions in the Strip, should they refuse to sign a prisoner exchange agreement, which would include the release of the abducted Israeli serviceman.

 

The newspaper also reported that Hamas is inclined to relax its conditions in order to complete the deal, but objects to the prisoner lists submitted by Israel.

 

The same sources added that Cairo has been pressuring Hamas to relax its conditions, as Israel is inclined to accept a lull agreement if Hamas is willing to show some flexibility in terms of the Shalit issue.

 

Quoting sources in Hamas, al-Akhbar reported Suleiman met with the movement's leaders in Cairo to discuss the Shalit issue and the possibility of tying it to a truce agreement, following a demand made by Israel.

 

Hamas spokesman Aliman Taha said that his movement was "not interested in holding on to Shalit forever." He added, "If Israel accepts the resistance's demands, we will release him immediately."

 

'No progress due to Israel's stubbornness'

Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Popular Resistance Committees, one of the factions behind Shalit's abduction, said that his group was "ready to tie the lull issue to the Shalit deal," but only if Israel accepts the factions' demands, particularly the release of the prisoners whose names appear on the list submitted by the organization.

 

"The Shalit issue is still marking time. No achievement has been reached due to Israel's stubbornness," said the spokesman, Abu Mujehad.

 

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni will be meeting Sunday with Jordan's King Abdullah in the framework of the World Economic Forum to be held in Sharm el-Sheikh. Foreign Ministry officials said that Livni may also meet with senior Egyptian officials, including President Hosni Mubarak.

 

Should Livni meet with Mubarak, this could have diplomatic implications, against the backdrop of Suleiman's visit to Jerusalem at the beginning of this week. The Egyptian government has been attempting to secure a lull agreement between Israel and Palestinian groups in the Gaza Strip.

 

If the meeting goes ahead, Foreign Ministry officials say that Livni will emphasize the Israeli message, already conveyed to Suleiman: "There will be no business as usual in Gaza as long as Gilad Shalit is in Hamas captivity."

 


פרסום ראשון: 05.17.08, 13:33
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