Omar Suleiman, the Spy Chief Who Mediated Between Israel and Hamas

Mubarak's former right-hand man, who died Thursday, was one of the main mediators in the Gilad Shalit deal and often worked to calm violent clashes between Israel and Hamas.

The Egyptian Embassy in Washington is making arrangements to transfer the body of former Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman to Cairo, a senior Egyptian diplomatic source in Washington said Thursday afternoon. The body will be accompanied by two of his daughters, the source said.

According to reports from Egypt, the military funeral of Suleiman, who held the rank of general, will be held in Cairo on Saturday.

Suleiman, 76, who was ousted Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak’s right-hand man, died early on Thursday at the Cleveland Clinic where he was undergoing tests for a lung disease that apparently affected his heart. He went to Cleveland for treatment after his condition deteriorated seriously three weeks ago. He was apparently being prepared for an operation when he died.

Suleiman joined the Egyptian army in 1954, about two years after the Free Officers coup that was led by Gamal Abdel Nasser. He attended a military college in the former Soviet Union, which was typical of many army officers in Arab states at the time.

During the 1980s, Suleiman completed his academic studies, including a master’s degree in political science. He advanced in rank, and in 1993 was appointed by Mubarak as chief of the Egyptian General Intelligence Service, considered a key position in the Egyptian hierarchy.

For many years, Suleiman’s identity remained a secret, as is standard for intelligence operatives, but in the past few years his name surfaced as being the Egyptian official responsible for dealing with the Palestinian issue. He carried on an extensive relationship with Israel and the Palestinian Authority, including meetings with prime ministers and defense ministers.

Suleiman’s name often appeared in the news in connection to the case of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who was abducted by Hamas and held in the Gaza Strip for more than five years until his release late last year. Suleiman was in constant contact with the various sides and was considered one of the main mediators in the affair. Suleiman also worked to achieve calm between Israel and Hamas whenever there were incidents in the Western Negev and inside the Gaza Strip.

Suleiman was presented as a leading candidate in Egypt to succeed the ailing Hosni Mubarak. Early on in the revolution, on January 25, 2011, Mubarak appointed him vice president, a position that he had doggedly refused to fill throughout his more than 30 years as president.

Suleiman, who gained the backing of the army, initiated a dialogue with all of the various Egyptian factions, in an attempt to defuse the tensions and disperse the masses that had taken over Cairo’s Tahrir Square. But Suleiman eventually succumbed to the will of the people and it was he who informed the Egyptian nation and the world of Mubarak’s resignation in February 2011.

Subsequently, Suleiman did not rule out the possibility of running for the presidency, and his candidacy was even submitted to the election committee, which invalidated his candidacy on the grounds that the filing process was incomplete and the required documents had not been submitted. Suleiman conceded, although he did cast doubt on the committee’s decision.

Shortly afterward, he left Egypt for the United States.