Report: Hamas ready for prisoner exchange regardless of Gaza reconstruction

June 1, 2021 by Baruch Yedid - TPS
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Are Israel and the Hamas terror organization on the way towards a prisoner exchange?

Yahya Sinwar, the Palestinian leader of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, during a meeting with the foreign press in Gaza City. Gaza, May 26, 2021. Photo by Majdi Fathi/TPS

The Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar reported Monday that Hamas is ready to hold a prisoner exchange deal, which will take place in several stages and during which sick, young and female prisoners will be released in exchange for information provided by Hamas about the fate of bodies of the IDF soldiers and civilians held by them in the Gaza Strip.

The remains of IDF soldiers Lt. Hadar Goldin and Staff Sgt. Oron Shaul, who were killed during Operation Protective Edge in Gaza in 2014, are thought to be held by Hamas.

Hamas is also holding Israeli citizens Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed who crossed the border into Gaza several years ago.

Al-Akhbar quoted Hamas sources who said that the organization is demanding the release of thousands of prisoners, including those serving long prison terms.

The newspaper added that Hamas opposes connecting the issue of rehabilitating the Gaza Strip and its other political demands, to the issue of the release of prisoners, which is the responsibility of the organization’s military wing.

The report in the Al-Akhbar newspaper comes against the background of the very significant efforts that Egypt is investing in bringing about a long-term ceasefire and formulating a deal for the release of prisoners, and for the establishment of a mechanism for the rehabilitation of the Gaza Strip.

The Al-Arabiya network also reported on this matter, noting that Egypt has already submitted a draft regarding the prisoners’ deal to Israel, which, for the time being, is tying the issue of prisoners in the rehabilitation of the Gaza Strip.

A Hamas source told TPS that “the price demanded by Hamas is known to Israeli leaders and therefore they will have to decide whether they want to promote a deal to exchange prisoners. This is a political decision facing Israel and if they agree, we can move forward.”

A similar Hamas official, Ismail Radwan, said Sunday that “the organization’s position is that there should be no connection between the issue of Gaza’s rehabilitation and the release of prisoners,” adding that “the occupation [Israel] must understand that its soldiers will not be released without paying the price demanded by the resistance Hamas,” claiming that Hamas does not need the international aid meant for Gaza to redevelop its military capabilities.

The prevailing assessment among Gaza and Palestinian Authority officials is that Israel and Hamas are approaching a prisoner exchange deal and this relies mainly on Egypt sending its senior intelligence official, Abbas Kamel, to visit the Gaza Strip to meet with the factions.

The streets of Gaza are already crowded with pictures of Kamel and Egyptian flags ahead of his meeting with representatives of the factions. The head of Egyptian intelligence will hold a closed meeting with the leader of Hamas in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, and with some of the leaders of the organization, and then he will attend an extended meeting with the participation of factions in the Gaza Strip.

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