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Hamas rejects prisoner swap

Palestinian protesters hold pictures of Palestinian prisoners outside of an Israeli prison [Issam Rimawi/Apaimages]
Palestinian protesters hold pictures of Palestinian prisoners outside of an Israeli prison [Issam Rimawi/Apaimages]

Hamas has turned down an offer from Israel for a prisoner exchange deal meant to secure the return of two civilians and the remains of two soldiers being held by the group in the Gaza Strip. According to Al-Jazeera, the movement's Mahmoud Al-Zahar said that the Israeli offer, which is said to be a "humanitarian exchange", failed to meet its minimum demands.

The senior official explained that Hamas has been receiving offers to ease the blockade on the Gaza Strip and the exchange of Israeli soldiers in return for a Palestinian prisoner. The Israeli captives are said to be suffering from mental illness.

Read: Al-Qassam: We received new Israeli offer for a prisoner exchange deal

Zahar pointed out that the detainees' families have been pressuring the Israeli authorities for the return of their sons. They hold Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responsible for the failure of the deal.

The Hamas official emphasised that the movement is only interested in a "full exchange" of prisoners, not a "partial" swap. "Only after that can we move forward in the negotiations," he explained.

A senior Hamas source told the Times of Israel that it wanted Israel to release 60 members of the group who were re-arrested after being freed in an earlier exchange. Hamas has long demanded that Israel should release hundreds of Palestinian prisoners who were re-arrested after the deal to secure the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in 2011 before the movement will open new negotiations. Shalit was captured on active duty and held for 5 years before his release.

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