The Hamas journal Al-Risala reported yesterday that a senior Hamas delegation headed by politburo chief Khaled Meshal, is due in Cairo this weekend, and quoted a senior Palestinian source as saying the delegation is expected to hold talks over a deal to release kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

Other Hamas sources said Meshal is going to Cairo to discuss the broader spectrum of issues between Egypt and the Islamist Palestinian organizations.

Several weeks ago, another round of talks on the Shalit deal came to an end in Cairo - with no progress reported at their end. The Israeli negotiator, David Meidan, and his team held indirect talks with Hamas negotiators headed by the commander of its military wing, Ahmed al-Ja'abari.

Senior Egyptian sources told Haaretz that during that latest round of talks, in which Meshal also participated, Israel showed willingness to lower the number of Palestinian prisoners whose expulsion from the West Bank it intended to demand as part of the deal. It appears that Israel wishes to see 140-150 of the prisoners expelled from the West Bank after their release.

Meanwhile, the Arab media is reporting increasingly on Egyptian security operations in the Sinai Peninsula. According to reports, the Egyptian efforts are being focused on the areas of El Arish and Rafah, where they are targeting Jihadist cells and other extremists who support them. There is also said to be increased activity along the coastal areas of the Red Sea, but so far the central Sinai Peninsula is an area the Egyptian security forces have not yet raided.

There was also a report that the Egyptians would like to create a barrier in the area where tunnels run between Rafah and Sinai, along the border town of Rafah. On the Palestinian side, Hamas has begun placing policemen at the entrances of tunnels operating along the border. Officers are checking the types of materials that are being smuggled through the tunnels and also seeking identification from the persons crossing in from Egypt.

Most recently Hamas imposed duties on fuel and its derivatives being smuggled in from Egypt.