Egypt has warned Hamas to beware of Israeli attempts to assassinate the group's leaders over their lack of progress in negotiations to free abducted Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, the London-based Al-Quds al-Arabi daily reported on Thursday.

According to the report, the rift between Egypt and Hamas officials has deepened in recent weeks regarding the group's inflexibility over a deal to release the soldier.

The officials told the newspaper they had been warned by Egypt that none of them would be "immune to assassination" attempts so long as they remained inflexible on a deal.

Egypt is interested in holding immediate negotiations on a deal, and rejects Hamas' demands that talk hinge on the reopening of the Rafah border crossing between Israel and Gaza.

Cairo has in effect adopted the Israeli stance that the crossing should be opened once a deal has been reached, which it believes can be achieved within a month.

Shalit has been held captive in the Gaza Strip since he was siezed by Palestinian militants in a cross-border raid in June 2006. While talks have been ongoing regarding a prisoner exchange deal for his release, little progress has been reported.

Cairo earlier this week warned Hamas that it must stop obstructing progress in the deal to release Shalit and uphold its end of the Egyptian-brokered truce with Israel.

A senior government official in Jerusalem said that as far as Israel knows, Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman told Khaled Meshal, the Hamas political bureau head in Damascus, that Egypt would not agree to Hamas' ongoing hard-line stand in talks over Shalit's release.

The official said Suleiman also said the talks between Israel and Hamas, mediated by Egypt, should move ahead again intensively in Cairo, as was agreed more than a month ago.

Egypt has made clear to both Israel and Hamas that it will not give up its position as broker in the talks.