Report: Hamas Ready to Renew Shalit Talks

Top Hamas officials in Cairo meet with senior officials in new Egyptian government to resume Egyptian-brokered talks on the captive soldier, reports Arabic daily Al Hayat.

Hamas is ready to renew talks on a prisoner swap for Israeli captive soldier Gilad Shalit, the London-based Arabic daily Al Hayat reported yesterday.

The paper said the head of Hamas' political wing, Khaled Meshaal, was in Cairo for nine days, during which he met with senior officials in the new Egyptian government. Meshaal also met with the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Mohammed Badie, who agreed to Egyptian-brokered talks on a Shalit deal if the negotiations begin where they left off, according to Al Hayat.

Gilad Shalit cardboard figures
Tess Scheflan

It said Hamas' military leader, Ahmed Jabari, was still in Cairo to continue talks on a deal.

Al Jazeera previously reported that Cairo has outlined a new agreement for Shalit's release that Hamas deems acceptable.

A senior Hamas official told Al Hayat the group would not immediately bring up the main points of contention with Israel: Israel's interest in sending released Palestinian prisoners to Gaza rather than the West Bank and the Hamas demand that Israel release all female Palestinian prisoners, prominent prisoners and those who are from East Jerusalem or are Israeli citizens.

Overall, Israel has welcomed the renewed Egyptian involvement in the Shalit talks, although Israeli defense officials said reports in the Arab press of a breakthrough should be regarded cautiously, since such reports have proved false in the past.

The renewed involvement comes as the new Egyptian government seeks to improve its position in the Arab world, in part by strengthening ties with Hamas and showing it can get results.

After years of tense relations with Egypt under Hosni Mubarak, Hamas wants to work with the new government, including on a possible Shalit deal.

Israel's release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Shalit could serve Hamas' interests if the Palestinians hold elections for a Hamas-Fatah unity government, since Hamas will want to rack up some achievements by then.