Egypt to Hamas: Sunday Morning Deadline

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak gave Hamas terrorists until Sunday morning to decide whether to accept his proposal for the release of their hostage, IDF Corporal Gilad Shalit.

Hana Levi Julian, | updated: 04:49

The Egyptian proposal is for the Israeli soldier to be freed immediately, while Mubarak personally guarantees that Israel will, in the future, release terrorist prisoners - and not only women and teenagers.

Mubarak has reportedly also pushed Syrian President Bashar Assad to pressure Hamas terrorist leader Khaled Mashaal, whose headquarters are based in Damascus. Mashaal is assumed to be even more intransigent - and has more authority - than Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniyeh.

Hamas demands a direct commitment from Israel to release prisoners, and does not want to rely on Israel's promise to Egypt.

Hizbullah secretary-general Hassan Nasrallah, meanwhile, urged the terrorists not to release Shalit unless something is offered in return. By Saturday night, Egyptian patience was waning and the terrorists were informed that their response was expected by Sunday morning.

At that time, Egypt threatened, it would end its participation in the negotiations and the IDF would step up its military action in Gaza.

Shalit’s captors demanded that Israel release 1,000 prisoners and stop all military action in Gaza. With this, they have not committed themselves to freeing Shalit in return. The demand was signed by the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC), the Army of Islam and the military wing of Hamas.

Complicating the picture is the uncertainty as to who exactly is calling the shots within Hamas. Sources close to PA President Mahmoud Abbas said Saturday that there is a power struggle developing between Hamas Chairman and PA prime minister Ismail Haniyeh and the terrorists who are holding Shalit. The kidnappers are apparently operating under Mashaal’s orders from Damascus.

“Hamas political leaders outside are saying the decision is in the hands of its military wing inside Gaza, while the military wing is saying the decision is in the hands of the political leadership outside. Ismail Haniyeh... appears not to have any say in what is going on in this regard,” said sources in PA Chairman Muhammed Abbas’ office.

Israeli officials have repeated that they will not negotiate with terrorist organizations.