Hamas and Israel reportedly close to reaching prisoner swap – .

Hamas and Israel reportedly close to reaching prisoner swap – .

Egypt is putting immense pressure on Hamas and Israel to reach a prisoner exchange deal, Palestinian and Egyptian sources said on Sunday.

The Egyptians hope such an agreement will pave the way for a long-term truce between Israel and Hamas, the sources said.

Unconfirmed reports in a number of Palestinian and Egyptian media outlets have claimed in recent days that progress has been made towards a prisoner swap.

Hamas holds the bodies of IDF soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin, who were killed in the 2014 war with Israel, as well as two Israeli citizens, Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, who entered the Gaza Strip from of their own accord in 2014 and 2105, respectively.

According to reports, Israel’s recent easing of restrictions on the Hamas-ruled coastal enclave is aimed at facilitating the Egyptian mission to secure a prisoner exchange deal and achieve a long-term truce.

The Palestinian daily Al-Quds reported that Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi was personally involved in the contacts to reach a Hamas-Israel deal.

“The next few days could see a shift in positions of Hamas and Israel towards taking confidence-building measures to move forward with a multi-stage prisoner exchange deal,” the newspaper said, citing. informed Palestinian and Egyptian sources. “Cairo is pushing hard for a prisoner exchange deal between Hamas and Israel as part of a comprehensive plan to reach an agreement ensuring a long-term truce in the Gaza Strip.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said on Saturday that his group was continuing efforts to secure the release of Palestinians held in Israeli jails.

“Hamas’s efforts to secure the release of all Palestinian prisoners continue,” Haniyeh said during a phone call to a Palestinian woman who was released from Israeli prison last week.

Haniyeh did not comment on reports of an impending deal with Israel.

The woman, Anhar al-Deek, from the village of Naima near Ramallah, was arrested in March on suspicion of attempting to carry out a stabbing attack on the outpost of Sde Ephraim settlement in the West Bank . She was four months pregnant at the time.

Haniyeh told al-Deek that the issue of prisoners will remain high on Hamas’ list of priorities.

Sheikh Hassan Yusef, a senior Hamas official in the West Bank, said his group “was devoting all its energies and efforts to concluding another prisoner exchange deal with Israel.”

Last week, the Lebanese Hezbollah-affiliated newspaper Al-Akhbar claimed that Hamas had informed the Egyptians of its willingness to enter into a prisoner exchange deal with Israel.

The newspaper said Hamas was prepared, in the first phase of the proposed deal, to hand over the bodies of the soldiers in exchange for the immediate release of women, minors and sick inmates from Israeli jails.

The move would be followed by a series of measures by Israel and other international parties to improve the humanitarian and economic situation in the Gaza Strip, according to Al-Akhbar.

Hamas is demanding the release of hundreds of prisoners, many of whom are serving long prison terms for their roles in terrorist attacks, sources close to the Gaza-based group said. The Hamas leadership has prepared a list with the names of the prisoners it wants to release, the sources added.

A Palestinian prints posters in preparation for a Hamas-Israel prisoner swap in Gaza, 2011 (Credit: MOHAMMED SALEM / REUTERS)

“The ball is in the Israeli government’s court,” the sources said.

Despite reports of a possible breakthrough, Saleh Arouri, vice chairman of Hamas’ political bureau, said last weekend that there had been no “substantial development” in the Israeli government’s position. vis-à-vis a prisoner exchange agreement.

Arouri told Al Jazeera television station that mediation efforts had not yet progressed.

“The Egyptian brothers are making efforts, but the negotiations have not advanced,” he said.

Arouri said Hamas has rejected Israeli attempts to tie a prisoner exchange deal to a ceasefire or the lifting of the “siege” on the Gaza Strip. “The agreement on prisoners is not linked to any other problem,” he said.

The Hamas official said details of the names and numbers of prisoners held by Israel are left to negotiators. Hamas insists that any agreement includes prisoners serving long sentences, women, minors, sick and elderly detainees, in addition to the bodies of deceased terrorists held by Israel, Arouri said.


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