Egypt's chief of intelligence, Omar Suleiman, has urged the leader of Hamas, Khaled Meshaal, who is in Syria, to push for the release of Cpl. Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier who was seized by Palestinians militants on a raid from Gaza on Sunday, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensivity of security matters.
Israel has massed tanks and soldiers on its Gaza frontier and threatened to move into the territory unless the soldier, who was captured Sunday, is released. It has also closed its crossings with the Gaza Strip, stopping all movement of people and goods.
An Israeli incursion into Gaza is likely to cause large numbers of Palestinians to flee to northern Egypt, where many have family members.
Beginning Monday, Egypt has deployed 2,500 members of the Central Security Forces, who answer to the Interior Ministry, along its northeatern border with Gaza. They are armed with heavy machine guns and armored vehicles. It has also imposed a night-time curfew on the inhabited areas along the border.
A second official said Egypt's deployment of such a large force was also intended to prevent any possible attempt to smuggle the kidnapped soldier into Egypt. Palestinian security officials in Gaza have said the kidnappers might try to smuggle him into Egypt through a tunnel, the AP rports.
Speaking of Egypt's diplomatic efforts, the officials said Suleiman had called Mashaal, who lives in Damascus, and urged him to work for the soldier's release. The officials said Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz had asked Suleiman to intercede.