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Hamas demands release of more senior prisoners by Israel

March 5, 2024 at 9:34 am

Relatives and friends of Palestinians imprisoned in Israel lift placards and portraits at a rally calling for their release and the return of the bodies of those who died during incarceration, in the Hebron city center in the occupied West Bank on 27 February, 2024 [HAZEM BADER/AFP via Getty Images]

As negotiations over a prisoner exchange deal continue, Israel’s Channel 13 has reported that Hamas has set a new and difficult condition that Israel may not meet. The new demand, according to the channel, relates to increasing the number of Palestinian prisoners who will be released as part of the deal, with a focus on the number of security prisoners accused of killing Israeli citizens.

The mediators, Egypt and Qatar, put forward this initiative a few days ago, after the Paris Summit discussed the release of dozens of senior Palestinian prisoners, but Hamas wants to increase this number. This message was conveyed to Israel via Mossad chief David Barnea a few days ago, and sources in Israel told the channel that, “There is nothing to talk about as long as there is no official and final response from Hamas.”

According to the channel, such a request cannot pass in the eyes of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Israeli officials expressed their pessimism on Monday evening. “There is a complete stalemate in the negotiations,” said one official.

However, it has been said that “there are no sacred dates,” meaning that even if they do not reach an agreement by Ramadan, it is possible to reach an agreement during the fasting month, which is due to start early next week.

A senior Hamas official said today that progress has been made in the negotiations. The number of prisoners that the movement is demanding in exchange for the release of each kidnapped person has already been handed over to Egypt.

According to the official, quoted by Saudi Arabia’s Al-Hadath channel, the movement is also demanding the return of 500 Gazan families to the north of the Gaza Strip for every day of ceasefire.

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