Hamas has demanded Israel release 250 Palestinian prisoners in return for confidential information about four Israeli prisoners of war held in Gaza.
According to the Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar today, Hamas officials held in Israeli jails have produced a list of 250 Palestinian prisoners they demand be freed as part of the first stage of negotiations, and sent the list to the movement’s leadership represented by Yahya Al-Sinwar in the Gaza Strip.
In exchange for the prisoners’ release, Hamas has offered to provide information regarding the bodies of two deceased Israeli soldiers Lieutenant Hadar Goldin and Sergeant Oron Shaul, as well as the alleged civilians Avera Mengistu and Hisham Al-Sayed who Hamas says are also soldiers.
A major figure in the negotiations is a German mediator who was also involved in the famous Shilat deal in 2011, in which 1,027 Palestinians were released in return for Israeli soldier Gilad Shilat. Some of those released in that deal, however, were rearrested by Israeli authorities in 2014.
In an interview with Nazareth Radio, Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem referred to the earlier proposal made by Al-Sinwar that old and sick Palestinian prisoners would be released by Israel during the first stage of the deal, saying that “the ball is in Israel’s court”.
When the second stage of negotiations is conducted, Hamas has insisted that it will only take part in talks once Israel releases those 55 prisoners it rearrested following the Shilat deal.
While it is known that the two Israeli soldiers were killed during the Israeli military operation in Gaza in 2014, the health and medical condition of Mengistu and Al-Sayed remain unknown.
A senior source from Hamas told the Palestinian newspaper Al-Quds on Saturday that while Egypt and Russia have expressed willingness to go ahead with the negotiations and come up with an agreement, Israel has not yet sent a “serious response”. Despite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announcing last week that his country is ready to negotiate, the source said that he was instead engaging in “media equivocation” without making any moves towards striking a deal.
Hamas’ offer also comes amid rising humanitarian concerns over the safety of Palestinian prisoners from the spread of the coronavirus.