Text size
related tags

Israeli defense officials say senior negotiator Ofer Dekel has met Egyptian officials in Cairo in an effort to achieve movement on a proposed prisoner swap with Hamas in exchange for captured Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit.

Dekel is the Israeli official in charge of efforts to free Shalit, who was captured by Gaza militants two years ago. Hamas wants Israel to release hundreds of Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Shalit.

The Israeli officials would not say who Dekel met during his trip to Cairo Wednesday or what was the outcome of the meeting.

The Israeli officials spoke on condition of anonymity in accordance with Israeli government policy of not commenting on the indirect negotiations.

The head of the diplomatic-security branch at the Defense Ministry warned last week that a deal to release Shalit would not take place in the near future.

Amos Gilad, who is involved in Egyptian-sponsored efforts to free the soldier, told foreign diplomats and press in Jerusalem that Israel is not close to a deal on releasing the soldier held by Hamas for more than two years.

He said, however, that negotiations had become more serious since the cease-fire with Gaza's Hamas rulers had taken effect in June.

Gilad described Hamas as "a cancer," and said the current peace talks between Israel and moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas are not likely to bear fruit until Abbas retakes Gaza. The coastal territory bordering Israel and Egypt was seized by Hamas in June 2007 after bloody clashes with members of Abbas' Fatah movement.

Gilad said negotiating with the West Bank leaders is like talking to half a body. Hamas is now stronger than the Palestinian Authority, he warned.

Meanwhile, the pan-Arab London-based newspaper Asharq al-Awsat on Wednesday quoted a senior Hamas official in Gaza as saying that any Israeli attempts to rescue Shalit would spur the Islamist group to kidnap more soldiers.