Israeli Official in Cairo for Talks on Second Stage of Shalit Swap Deal

Last month, a Hamas official said that the second stage of the prisoner exchange agreement should go into effect by December 19.

An Israeli military official arrived Sunday in Cairo for talks on carrying out the second stage of a prisoner swap deal between Israel and the Palestinian movement Hamas, said sources at Cairo airport.

Israel freed 477 Palestinian prisoners in October in exchange for the kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, in the first stage of the Egyptian-brokered deal that involves the release of a total of 1,027 Palestinians.

"The talks will also deal with the development of the Egyptian-Israeli relations and coopration in preserving security along the joint border of the two countries," added the sources, who declined to identify the Israeli official.

Last month, a Hamas official said that the second stage of the prisoner swap deal should go into effect by December 19; the 550 remaining Palestinian prisoners are set to be freed in this stage.

Meanwhile, Israel's new ambassador to Egypt is set to arrive in Cairo this week after his predecessor was pulled out when the embassy was attacked by protesters in September, Egyptian and Israeli sources said on Sunday.

Yaakov Amitai, the new envoy, replaces Yitzhak Levanon, who was ambassador when the embassy was stormed during protests over the killing in August of Egyptian guards by Israeli troops pursuing militants who had killed eight Israelis on the border.

Staff from the Israeli embassy, located in a high-rise building in central Cairo, were evacuated after the protests in September. Levanon briefly returned to Egypt in November for farewell meetings with foreign and Egyptian diplomats before completing his term.

Egypt's state news agency, citing airport sources, said the new envoy, who had been named to the role some 10 months ago, would come to Cairo on Monday to begin work.

An Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman also said Amitai, a fluent Arabic speaker who has previously served at the embassy in Cairo, was scheduled to arrive in the Egyptian capital on Monday but did not rule out last-minute changes to those plans.

An Israeli source had said last month that Amitai would present his credentials in December but had also said the embassy would not be staffed or resume normal activity until acceptable security arrangements were in place.

Many Egyptians view Israel, which signed a peace treaty with Egypt in 1979 after four wars between the two countries, with hostility. Anti-Israeli sentiment, muted before President Hosni Mubarak was overthrown in February, has become more vocal.