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The powerful chief of Egypt's intelligence services, Omar Suleiman, secured a promise from Israel not to harm top Hamas political bureau deputy Moussa Abu Marzouk during a visit he made last week to the Gaza Strip, the pan-Arab London-based newspaper Al Hayat reported on Friday.

According to the report, Suleiman expressed his desire to expedite talks on a prisoner swap involving captive Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit, who has been held in Gaza since his abduction in a cross-border raid by Palestinian gunmen in June 2006.

Palestinian sources told Al Hayat that during his visit Abu Marzouk met with the commander of the Hamas military wing, Ahmed al-Jabari, and with the head of the Hamas government in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh.

Sources said al-Jabari is the official who is responsible for concealing Shalit and is also charged with preserving his welfare. Al-Jabari is also said to be intimately involved in drafting the list of prisoners Hamas seeks in exchange for Shalit's release.

The newspaper reports that Israel is adamant in its refusal to release between 6 and 10 prisoners whom Hamas is demanding. Officials have yet to schedule a date for marathon, indirect talks between Israel and Hamas which would in all likelihood consummate the agreement.