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Reports: Hamas seeks release of Marwan Barghouti in any hostage deal

December 22, 2023 at 11:58 am

A big mural shows jailed Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti, in Jabalia refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip on 16 April, 2023 [Majdi Fathi/NurPhoto]

Hamas has demanded the release of three top Palestinian leaders in any hostage swap deal with Israel, Israeli media reports revealed yesterday.

Hamas insists Marwan Barghouti, Ahmed Saadat and Abdullah Barghouti be released in any new deal, Yedioth Ahronoth has said.

Barghouti, 64, a member of Fatah’s Central Committee, is most favoured to chair the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority (PA), according to Palestinian opinion polls.

He was arrested by Israel in 2002 and handed five life sentences.

Barghouti “can change the face of the Palestinian Authority,” the newspaper said. Despite his imprisonment, Barghouti enjoys strong support and has been able to affect events on the ground in the occupied West Bank.

Saadat, secretary-general of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), was arrested in 2008 and jailed for 30 years in connection with the killing of Israeli Tourism Minister Rehavam Ze’evi in 2001.

Abdullah Barghouti is a top Hamas leader and is in jail serving multiple life sentences for alleged attacks on Israelis.

Israel refused to include the three leaders in a previous prisoner exchange deal with Hamas in 2011, which saw the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in return for over 1,000 Palestinian detainees.

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

Hamas political chief Ismail Haniyeh arrived in Cairo on Wednesday amid Egyptian efforts to mediate a new hostage swap deal between the Palestinian group and Israel.

However, Al-Qassam Brigade spokesperson, Abu Obeidah, said yesterday that the movement refuses to engage in any prisoner exchange talks before Israel stops its war on the besieged Gaza Strip.

During a week-long humanitarian pause in Gaza from 24-30 November, Hamas released 81 Israelis and 24 foreigners in exchange for 240 Palestinians, including 71 women and 169 children.

Nearly 130 Israelis are being held as prisoners of war in Gaza.

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