Hamas: Israel Is Negotiating a Prisoner Release to Aid Netanyahu Before Elections
Sources within the Gaza-based terror group Hamas told Arab media outlets on Saturday that Israel is seeking to negotiate a prisoner release deal that would shore up Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s image before the upcoming elections.
Hamas is holding Israelis Avera Mengistu and Hisham a-Said prisoner in Gaza, along with the bodies of two Israeli soldiers killed in 2014 during Operation Cast Lead — Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul.
According to Israeli news website Walla, the Hamas sources told the Arabic-language newspaper Al-Arabi Al-Jadid that Israel has initiated indirect contacts in order to negotiate the release of the prisoners through an unnamed European country, as well as UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov.
The sources stated that Hamas’ terms include the release of all Hamas members rearrested after the deal that brought Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit back to Israel in 2011. They claimed Hamas has rejected Israel’s request to return only some of the prisoners in question.
The reason for the Israeli initiative, said the sources, was to bolster Netanyahu’s chances in the elections to be held in April.