Mubarak to Netanyahu: Accept Hamas' Demands for Shalit Deal

Egypt can guarantee deal and possible Gaza calm if Israel shows flexibility, according to Saudi paper.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has advised Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to accept Hamas' demands for a prisoner swap deal that would see the release of abducted Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, the Saudi daily Al-Madina reported on Friday.

According to the report, Mubarak told Netanyahu during their talks in Cairo earlier this week that Hamas would not give up on the list of prisoners it wants freed in the swap.

If Israel agrees to show some flexibility on the matter, Mubarak was reported as saying, then Egypt could guarantee that the deal go through and even convince Hamas to begin negotiating for a long-term cease-fire in the Gaza Strip.

Netanyahu did not give a concrete response to the proposal, according to the daily, saying only that Israel would give it consideration and reply when the time was right.

In recent weeks, Israel has reportedly been close to reaching a deal with Hamas that would see the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Shalit, who was captured by Gaza militants in June, 2006.

Senior Hamas official Mahmoud Zahar said Thursday that Hamas has not accepted Israel's latest offer, but that the door for completing a prisoner swap deal "has not been closed."

Hamas movement's leadership held two-day intensive talks in Damascus to discuss the latest Israeli offer surrounding the deal.

Israel is reportedly still refusing to release 22 Palestinian prisoners involved in some of the worst terror attacks, including Tanzim leader Marwan Barghouti, secretary general of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Ahmed Sa'adat, and two of the heads of Hamas' military wing in the West Bank, Ibrahim Hamad and Abdullah Barghouti, who are responsible for the murders of dozens of Israelis in suicide bombings.

The names on Israel's list include 15 militants from the West Bank and seven from the Gaza Strip.

Israel is also reportedly refusing to release 44 prisoners from East Jerusalem and 20 Israeli Arabs arrested before the Oslo Accord.

After the debates of the Israeli offer in Damascus finished, Hamas said that the Israeli offer was not accepted, but it would ask the German mediator to continue his efforts until the deal between Hamas and Israel was finalized.

Hamas leader did not say if the movement handed its response to the German mediator in Cairo or whether it will hand him its response later in Gaza.

Zahar said that upon his return from Damascus to Cairo with two other senior Hamas leaders, the delegation discussed with the Egyptian officials the Shalit deal, inter-Palestinian reconciliation and the steel barrier being built by Egypt at the Gaza-Egyptian border.