Egypt has demanded that Hamas immediately release kidnapped IDF soldier Cpl. Gilad Shalit to avoid a worsening crisis in the violence-battered Gaza Strip, Palestinian officials and Arab diplomats said Tuesday.
The Egyptian demand came in a "strongly worded letter" from Egypt's powerful intelligence chief Omar Suleiman to the Syrian-based Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal, they said. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the letter.
The letter also demanded Hamas cooperate fully with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas in forming a national unity government, a step that has been stalled by the organization's refusal to form an administration that recognizes Israel.
The message reflected increasing impatience with Hamas by Egypt, which has been mediating for months, trying to reach a deal on a prisoner swap for the release of Shalit, who is being held by Hamas-allied operatives in Gaza.
"The leadership has received the Egyptian letter today and is studying it," said a Hamas official close to Mashaal.