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April 30, 2020 2:18 pm

Hamas Official: Prisoner Exchange Talks With Israel Are Progressing

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

Ismail Haniyeh and Yahya Sinwar gesture to supporters during a rally marking the 30th anniversary of Hamas’ founding, in Gaza City, Dec. 14, 2017. Photo: Reuters / Mohammed Salem.

A senior Hamas official said on Thursday that indirect talks with Israel on a possible prisoner exchange agreement were progressing.

Hamas is currently holding Israeli citizens Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, as well as the bodies of IDF soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin, who were killed in battle during Operation Protective Edge in the summer of 2014.

According to a report published on Thursday by Israeli daily Israel Hayom, the unnamed senior official said that talks were ongoing under Egyptian mediation, though the two sides were currently split on the nature of a potential deal.

Hamas wanted a two-stage arrangement, the official said, while Israel wanted the issues to be resolved immediately, with the bodies of Goldin and Shaul returned and information on the fate of Mengistu and al-Sayed received.

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The official said that there was also a split between the Hamas leadership in Gaza and political bureau officials living abroad. The political bureau is taking a harder line, demanding an Israeli commitment to release all prisoners on a list given by Hamas.

However, the official stated, the leadership on the ground in Gaza was more powerful and influential, and therefore talks were likely to continue.

Another indication that prisoner exchange talks were progressing were reports that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week convened a ministerial committee to deal with the issue.

Israel’s Channel 13 reported that the Ministerial Committee on Prisoners and Missing Persons, including Defense Minister Naftali Bennett, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon and Interior Minister Aryeh Deri took part in a secure conference call in order to discuss the ongoing talks with Hamas.

A week ago, on Holocaust Remembrance Day, the Goldin family released a statement saying, “There is an opportunity bring back our son Hadar and Sgt. Oron Shaul and the civilians Mengistu and al-Sayed from the hands of Hamas. To miss the opportunity now is national irresponsibility.”

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