Israel Rejected ‘Road Map’ For Prisoner Swap, Hamas Says

A senior Hamas official claimed on Monday that Israel rejected an offer to receive information on the condition of four Israelis detained in the Gaza Strip in exchange for the release of Palestinian prisoners.

The offer was relayed to Israel through the Egyptians, who continue to serve as mediators in indirect negotiations between Israel and Hamas to reach a prisoner exchange agreement.

The alleged Israeli rejection of Hamas’s offer came against a backdrop of reports suggesting that progress has been made towards a prisoner swap deal.

Last week, Egypt’s Chief of General Intelligence, Abbas Kamel, was quoted as saying that he speaks every day with Israel and the Palestinians on various issues, including a possible long-term ceasefire agreement that would include an exchange of information. prisoners.

Kamel said such an agreement should begin with the release of elderly, female, adolescent and sick Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails.

A guard is seen in an observation tower along a wall at Gilboa prison, from which six Palestinian prisoners escaped, on September 6 (credit: AMMAR AWAD / REUTERS)

In September, Hamas proposed what it described as a “road map” for reaching a prisoner exchange deal with Israel. According to the roadmap, Israel would release an unknown number of prisoners, especially the elderly, women, adolescents and the sick, in exchange for information on the condition of the four Israelis held by the Gaza-based terror group.

But Khalil al-Hayya, head of Hamas’s Arab and Islamic Department, claimed that Israel has rejected Hamas’s proposal.

“We call it a humanitarian agreement,” Hayya said in an interview with the Qatari-owned Al Jazeera network. “We are talking about the liberation of women, children and the elderly, as well as sick prisoners.”

Hayya did not say when Israel allegedly rejected Hamas’s proposal. He said Hamas is ready to sign an agreement “tomorrow morning if Israel agrees to pay the price. Our Egyptian brothers know that we are prepared to sign an agreement once Israel agrees to pay the price. “

Hayya declined to reveal the number of Palestinian prisoners his group is demanding in exchange for the bodies of IDF soldiers Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul, who died during the 2014 Israel-Hamas war. Hamas is also believed to be holding them. two Israeli citizens, Hisham al-Sayed and Avera Mengistu, who entered the Gaza Strip on their own in 2014 and 2015.

Hayya declined to provide details on the condition of the four Israelis, but said Hamas does not distinguish between Israeli soldiers and civilians.

“They are Israelis who carried out military and security activities in the service of Israel,” he said. “We are not talking about the condition of the four. This is part of the negotiations. [with Israel]. “

The Hamas official expressed dissatisfaction with the lack of pressure on the Israeli government from the Israeli public to secure a prisoner exchange agreement with Hamas.

“Apparently, there is not enough pressure from Israeli society,” Hayya lamented. “It seems that the ones we are holding are not important to Israel. The Israeli army doesn’t care about them; Israeli society doesn’t seem to care either. “

Hayya said that by rejecting Hamas’ “humanitarian agreement”, Israel was hampering any progress in indirect negotiations held under the auspices of the Egyptians.

“There is no progress on this issue because Israel is putting up obstacles,” he said. “We present a roadmap and we insist on it. We are ready to move forward as soon as possible, but Israel must be prepared to pay the price. Unless Israel pays the price, its prisoners will not see the light. “

Hayya threatened to force Hamas to “kidnap” Israeli soldiers to secure the release of Palestinian prisoners after Israel’s alleged rejection of the offer.

“The Palestinian prisoners held by Israel are prisoners of war,” argued Hayya. “Israel has left us no means to free our prisoners other than to kidnap soldiers.”

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