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Israel and Hamas fail to agree prisoner swap during indirect talks in Cairo

Palestinian official Issam al-Daalis (C) from Hamas' political bureau stands outside the VIP hall at the Rafah border crossing with Egypt in the southern Gaza Strip on 3 October 2021, as a delegation from Gaza travels to Egypt for talks. [SAID KHATIB/AFP via Getty Images]
Palestinian official Issam al-Daalis (C) from Hamas' political bureau stands outside the VIP hall at the Rafah border crossing with Egypt in the southern Gaza Strip on 3 October 2021, as a delegation from Gaza travels to Egypt for talks. [SAID KHATIB/AFP via Getty Images]

Egyptian mediators have been unable to bring Israeli and Hamas representatives closer during indirect talks regarding a potential prisoner swap, Israeli sources reported today.

According to Arab48.com, the Israeli Hebrew-language newspaper Maariv reported an Israeli source close to the talks as saying that the two sides have failed to reach a breakthrough regarding the prisoner swap. Al-Arabiya TV in Dubai reported on Wednesday that Israel refused the Hamas demand to release 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in return for the release of the four Israelis held by the Palestinian resistance in Gaza.

The four Israelis — two of whom are soldiers: Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul — were captured during the 51-day Israeli offensive against the besieged coastal enclave in 2014. More than 2,260 Palestinians were killed, and more than 11,000 others were wounded.

READ: Hamas calls on Arab and Muslim leaders to oppose normalisation with Israel

On Sunday, senior Hamas officials from Gaza and overseas arrived in Cairo for meetings with Egyptian intelligence officials, including intelligence head Abbas Kamel, to discuss the issue of the prisoner swap and the easing of the 15-year Israeli siege of Gaza. Israel's Ynet News reported a source with knowledge of the talks as saying that the invitation for the Hamas leadership to go to Cairo was probably intended to put the movement under pressure to compromise on the swap, after Israel had informed Egypt it would reject the Hamas demands.

Maariv reiterated that there is no breakthrough on the issues currently on the table in Cairo. It pointed out that the Egyptian mediators "are exerting a lot of effort to consolidate the ceasefire in Gaza."

The Egyptians are also said to be working towards an easing of the siege and an increase in the amount of goods entering Gaza through the Rafah Crossing. They believe that this will strengthen their regional and international position with the Americans.

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