Defense Minister Ehud Barak is slated to meet with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak Wednesday in the Sinai resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh following a trip to the city by Damascus-based Hamas kingpin Khaled Mashaal Sunday. Barak's trip was scheduled last week prior to Mashaal's decision to join the Shalit negotiations. Mashaal's trip comes in response to accelerated talks between Hamas and Israeli officials mediated by the Egyptians over a possible prisoner swap deal for the release of kidnapped IDF Cpl. Gilad Shalit.
Barak's visit is connected with Hamas's contemplation of a ceasefire with Israel and Jerusalem's demand that Egypt take a more active stance vis a vis weapons and other smuggling from its side of the border into Gaza, according to security officials who requested anonymity. Egyptian security forces argue that they have uncovered several smuggling tunnels and large quantities of explosives, while Israeli officials argue that the Egyptian forces have failed to secure the border area, and that most weapons still reach their destination.
Barak is expected to reject Hamas's offer of a ceasefire, saying that Gaza terrorists must stop their attacks on Israel before Israel will agree to stop its counter-terrorism operations. Other Gaza-based terrorist groups have rejected the call for a ceasefire, and say they will continue attacks. It was not clear whether Barak would discuss the Shalit negotiations with Mubarak.