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Israel ‘unprepared’ for new prisoner swap: Hamas

Placed at the Al-Saraya junction in Gaza, a billboard shows Shaul Arun, an Israeli solider, standing with jail bars around him [Mohammed Asad/Apaimages]
Placed at the Al-Saraya junction in Gaza, a billboard shows Oron Shaul, an Israeli solider, standing with jail bars around him [Mohammed Asad/Apaimages]

The Israeli government is not prepared for reaching a deal on prisoner exchange, Palestinian resistance group Hamas said Saturday.

“The Israeli occupation is not prepared for a new prisoner swap,” Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum told Anadolu Agency.

Earlier, the London-based Al-Araby Al-Jadeed newspaper, citing Hamas sources, said Israel was holding “indirect” contacts to reach a prisoner swap deal with Hamas.

The sources described the Israeli contacts as “an attempt to support the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu” before the April general election.

Israel says two soldiers and two civilians are held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip since 2014 when Israel launched a deadly offensive against the Palestinian territory.

Read: Remembering the 2014 Israeli offensive against Gaza

In April, the Ezzeddin al-Qassam Brigades, the military arm of Hamas, confirmed that it was holding four Israeli soldiers, but the Palestinian group demands the release of dozens of Palestinian prisoners whom Israel re-arrested after their release as part of an Egyptian-brokered exchange deal to free captured soldier Gilad Shalit in 2011.

Barhoum reiterated that “there was no new regarding the issue of captured Israeli soldiers”.

There was no comment from the Israeli government on the report.

According to Palestinian figures, some 6,500 Palestinians are currently being held in Israeli prisons, including dozens of women and scores of minors.

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