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Israel: officials and media rule out prisoner swap with Hamas

Israeli forces outside Ofer prison in the West Bank on 12 July 2021 [Issam Rimawi/Anadolu Agency]
Israeli forces outside Ofer prison in the West Bank on 12 July 2021 [Issam Rimawi/Anadolu Agency]

Several Israeli officials and media outlets have ruled out the possibility of a prisoner swap with the Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement. A military official had been reported by the Israeli media on Monday as saying that the ceasefire between Israel and Gaza might be a prelude to a prisoner swap between the occupation state and Hamas.

However, Housing Minister Zeev Elkin said that the Israeli government is not prepared to free thousands of Palestinian prisoners to get back Israeli captives held in Gaza. "There will not be a release of thousands of prisoners in return for the captives and the missing," Elkin told public broadcaster Kan.

Hamas holds four Israelis or their remains in Gaza: Avera Mengistu, Hisham Al-Sayed, Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin. Israel believes that Shaul and Goldin, who were captured during the military offensive against Gaza in 2014, are dead, but Hamas has never given any details about them.

Israel and Hamas have held indirect talks in an attempt to reach a prisoner swap agreement similar to the one reached in 2011, when Israel released 1,027 Palestinian security prisoners in return for the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. Egypt, which brokers such talks between the two sides, has proposed separating the issue of Al-Sayed and Mengistu from that of Shaul and Goldin. Israel rejected such a deal.

Officials in the occupation state refuse to consider the release of Palestinian prisoners who killed or helped to kill Israeli soldiers, because they "have blood on their hands". However, it seeks the release of captive soldiers who might have killed or helped to kill Palestinians.

"One of the main sticking points in the talks has been Hamas's demand to release a large number of Palestinian prisoners in return for the Israeli captives," Yoav Zitun wrote in Ynet News. He noted that some of these prisoners are serving multiple life sentences.

READ: Israel guards storm Palestinian prisoners' cells

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