Egypt to renew efforts to free Schalit

1304.jpgEgypt has decided to resume its efforts to release kidnapped IDF Cpl. Gilad Schalit, a senior Egyptian government official here told The Jerusalem Post Monday.

The official was speaking shortly before the beginning of the summit that brought together Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Jordan’s King Abdullah and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.

“President Mubarak has instructed Egyptian Intelligence Chief Omar Suleiman to talk to Hamas leaders Khaled Mashaal and Ismail Haniyeh to solve the case of the Israeli soldier,” the official said. “We believe that Egypt can help Israel and Hamas reach a deal.”

Egypt cut off all its ties with Hamas after the Islamic movement took full control of the Gaza Strip. The Egyptians also decided to move their diplomatic mission from Gaza City to Ramallah.

In addition, the Egyptians withdrew their security delegation from the Gaza Strip. The delegation, headed by Gen. Burhan Hammad, a top intelligence officer, had been negotiating with Hamas leaders over the past year about the release of Schalit.

The official said the Egyptian government was now considering returning its security delegation to the Gaza Strip in a bid to persuade Hamas to release Schalit as part of a prisoner deal with Israel. He also said the Egyptians were planning to invite Mashaal to Cairo for talks on the fate of Schalit.

Egypt, he added, would do its utmost to end the case of Schalit. The Egyptian official also said that Mubarak promised both Olmert and Abbas that the Egyptian security forces would increase their efforts to prevent the smuggling of weapons to Hamas through the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt.

“Our border with the Gaza Strip is less than 14 kilometers,” he noted. “We have no problem enhancing security to stop the weapons smuggling.”

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