Israeli Negotiator Off to Cairo, Again

Ad Feedback - JERUSALEM, Israel - Ofer Dekel, Israel's designated negotiator for captured Israeli soldiers, left for Cairo Thursday to meet with Egyptian Intelligence chief Omar Suleiman concerning the release of Israel Defense Forces Corporal Gilad Shalit.

Suleiman allegedly committed to picking up the pace of negotiations with the Hamas terror organization for Shalit's release once the tahdayeh (temporary calm) agreed upon by Israel and Hamas was in effect.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak originally said there would be no cease-fire that didn't include Shalit's release, but later agreed to withdraw the demand as a stipulation of the truce.

Corporal Gilad Shalit was captured in a cross-border attack on an IDF outpost near the Kerem Shalom crossing between Israel and the Gaza Strip on June 25, 2006.

Since his capture on June 25, 2006, the number of prisoners demanded by Hamas in exchange for Shalit has varied.

According to the latest figures, Israel and Hamas have agreed on 450 prisoners, but they've yet to come up with a list of names acceptable to both sides. At one point, Hamas was demanding 1,000 prisoners in exchange for Shalit.

Meanwhile, the Olmert government has made little headway in alleged negotiations with the Lebanese-based Hezbollah terror group over the release of two captured IDF reservists.

The two soldiers were captured in a northern cross-border attack by Lebanese-based Hezbollah terrorists two years ago, which sparked the Second Lebanon War in the summer of 2006.

The fate of IDF reservists Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev remains unknown, with Hezbollah terror chief Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah saying that his demands for the release of Lebanese serving time in Israeli prisons has nothing to do with whether the two soldiers are alive or dead. On more than one occasion, Israel has released prisoners in exchange for body parts.

Meanwhile IDF Chief of General Staff Lt. General Gabi Ashkenazi said Wednesday that it was Israel's duty to pursue the return of its captured soldiers.

"I would like to emphasize, as the commander of the Israel Defense Forces, that it is our moral and long-time obligation to do everything in our power to bring back all our soldiers who have been captured by the enemy while performing their duties as fighters and protectors of the State of Israel," Ashkenazi said.

"It is the duty of Israeli society and it is our duty as an army," he said. "I am full of hope that it won't be long before we have the privilege of seeing them among us again," the chief of staff said.

Source: YNet news, The Jerusalem Post, Haaretz

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