Israeli defense official in Cairo for talks on Middle East peace

An Israeli defense official arrived in Cairo Wednesday for a visit with Egyptian officials that is expected to last a few hours.

Amos Gilad, chairman of the Israeli Defense Ministry's Diplomatic-Security Bureau, plans to discuss the latest developments in the Middle East peace process and the future of Egyptian-Israeli relations after Egypt decided to open the Rafah border crossing with Gaza.

The meetings will also tackle other issues, such as an Israeli-Palestinian prisoner swap, which Egypt had previously mediated before the 25 January revolution.

The swap would involve the release of hundreds of Palestinians detained in Israeli prisons in return for freeing Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier kidnapped by Hamas and held in Gaza since 2006.

The Israeli Ynet news website quoted the Israeli Home Front Defense Minister Matan Vilnai on Wednesday as saying, "Many of Gilad Shalit's abductors have died in unfortunate accidents over the past five years."

Vilnai said that even many of Hamas' senior operatives don't know where the kidnapped soldier is being held, and many of those who did know are no longer among the living.

"Hamas knows Israel will do anything to release Gilad Shalit," Vilnai told a crowd gathered for a special Jerusalem Day event at the city's Hebrew Gymnasium.

Vilnai was adamant that "if we don't have the ability to get Shalit, we must pay the heavy price with the release of murderers in order to bring him home."

Translated from the Arabic Edition

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