Egyptian Leader: Shalit is Alive & Well

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During a visit to Cairo on Tuesday, President Shimon Peres was told by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak that he believes Gilad Shalit is alive and well. Mubarak also signaled that the renewal of negotiations towards a prisoner release deal between Israel and Egypt is imminent.

Mubarak told the media that talks will resume at the exact point they halted in the previous administration, talks in which Ofir Dekel represented Israel. He added that since then, Israel has signaled to Hamas to prepare a new list of terrorists for release, to include 125 names as opposed to the previous list which contained over three times that number. Hamas however is unwilling to budge, insistent that there will be no deal for Shalit’s release until Israel agrees to release every name on the original list.

Hamas is also calling upon Israel to minimize the list of terrorists who will be exiled to Gaza. The daily Yediot reports that in contacts over recent weeks between Israel and Egypt, Mubarak has urged Defense Minister Ehud Barak to minimize the exile list, but Barak has not been forthcoming.

The president reportedly addressed the issue of Gilad Shalit’s prolonged captivity, as well as regional peace-making efforts. While the Egyptian leader expressed his hope that the Shalit affair “would come to an end soon”, he did not elaborate.

Egyptian “sources” report that Mubarak’s statement is based on recent information obtained from his intelligence chief, General Omar Suleiman, who told him that a number of days ago, a Hamas delegation visited from Gaza and they provided an update on Shalit’s condition.

In Israel, officials in Jerusalem cast a doubt on the report, indicating they do not believe the Gaza delegation actually visited with Shalit, but rather was briefed by Hamas officials holding him.

(Yechiel Spira – YWN Israel)