Egypt: IDF Gaza operation may harm efforts to free Shalit
Egypt FM tells Haaretz Shalit 'alive and well' but admits talks with Livni on the issue have collapsed.
Abducted Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit is alive and being treated well by his captors, but an Israeli operation in the Gaza Strip may hurt efforts to bargain for his release, Egypt's foreign minister told Haaretz Thursday.
Ahmed Aboul Gheit also warned Israel that the situation in Gaza "might get out of hand" and that Iran is "interfering in Arab affairs."
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni landed in Cairo Thursday and met with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Omar Suleiman, the head of the country's intelligence service and Gheit. She told them Israel will not continue to restrain itself from responding to the barrage of rockets launched by Gazan militants for long.
Shalit was high on the agenda in all of Livni's meetings but Thursday Gheit admitted that Egyptian talks on the issue have collapsed.
"The situation has slided again to a confrontation," Gheit said. "We are hoping that both parties would restrain their actions. Hence they would allow us to build and to establish that situation where by we can bring an end to the tension, then to restore the quiet and then we would work on Gilad Shalit anew."
Gheit said the security situation was linked to talks regarding a prisoner swap that would entail the release of Shalit. A military operation by the IDF would be hazardous to such a process , he said.
"He is part of a bigger and more general problem between Hamas and Israel," Gheit said, referring to Shalit. "My understanding from our own intelligence is he is okay and well treated."
Gheit did not talk about the possibility that an aggressive Israeli operation may spill over or affect Egypt as well.
"It might get out of hand," he explained. "We are warning both that it is better not to clash militarily. Help us to help you. [An IDF operation] will be bad because people would suffer on both sides and then the possibility of reconciling differences and of finding lasting solutions will diminish."
Egypt's foreign minister said he understood Israeli anger over the constant indiscriminate firing of rockets at civilian targets.
He added that Israel was partly to blame for the renewal of hostilities after the six months relative calm of the ceasefire, tying the Palestinians militants attacks to an IDF operation carried out a few weeks before the truce ended in which at least three armed Gazans were killed.
"It was the killing of some Palestinian activists in Gaza more then a month ago when Israel said that there is a tunnel that will be used for a military operation," he said. "So we think that you need to not provoke them and they need to not provoke you." The IDF said the operation Gheit referred to was undertaken because of fears that militants were on the verge of completing a tunnel they would use to try and abduct another IDF soldier.
Ties between Hamas and Egypt have strained because of the Islamic group's refusal to take part in talks over securing a truce. Relations between Cairo and Iran have even further soured due to Tehran's incitement in Gaza. Gheit Thursday pointed a blaming finger for the situation toward Iran, who he agreed was "absolutely" playing a negative role in the Gaza Strip.
While Gheit remained calm for most of the interview when asked about the issue of arms smuggling from Egypt into Gaza he lost his temper.
"No arms are going through Egypt to Gaza," the diplomat snapped before allowing the interviewer to complete his question.
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