Omar Suleiman 224.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
In a rare interview, Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman said that negotiations were currently being held with Israel in order to agree on a list of Palestinian prisoners to release in a deal to secure captured soldier Gilad Schalit's freedom.
Suleiman was quoted by Al-Ahram on Friday as saying that Egypt had rejected an Israeli request to banish several of the prisoners from the West Bank, with Cairo insisting that they return to their homes in the territory.
The intelligence head went on to tell the Egyptian newspaper that Israel was refusing to deliver cement, aluminum and iron to Gaza, all of which could be used for weapons manufacture, until a deal is sealed for Schalit's release.
Regarding efforts to reach a Hamas-Israel truce, Suleiman said that next week, Cairo and Jerusalem would discuss the Hamas position. He said that four issues were currently holding up a cease-fire agreement: rocket-fire from Gaza, the establishment of a buffer zone between Israel and the Strip, Hamas's commitment to honor the truce and a halt to arms smuggling to Gaza.
Suleiman said that Egypt and Israel were holding talks regarding the above issues. He also said that Cairo was prepared to cooperate with any new government in Jerusalem, but stressed that an Israeli attack in Gaza would damage ties between the two countries.
He said that Egypt was working for a comprehensive truce deal that would also advance peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.
On Thursday, Hamas deputy leader Moussa Abu Marzouk said that his organization supports an 18-month truce with Israel, though it would not be linked to a prisoner exchange deal to free Schalit.
Reuters quoted Abu Marzouk as saying that the Egypt-mediated truce would be announced in the coming two or three days. "It will be in a short period, God willingâ€¦ within two days," he said.
Abu Marzouk, in Cairo for truce talks with Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, told Al-Jazeera that Hamas was waiting for Israel to approve the details of the emerging agreement.
Taher Nunu, another member of the Hamas delegation in Egypt, also said the cease-fire would be officially announced within three days.