Hamas Deputy Chief: Israel not making moves for prisoner swap with Hamas

“We are always ready to achieve a prisoner swap deal with the Zionist entity through a mediator, but the entity is not moving in that direction.” said Saleh al-Arouri.

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December 31, 2017 11:24
3 minute read.
Saleh al-Arouri ‏

Saleh al-Arouri ‏. (photo credit: ARAB MEDIA)

Israel is not currently making moves to achieve a new prisoner-swap deal with Hamas, the group’s politburo deputy chairman, Saleh al-Arouri, said in a televised interview Saturday evening.


Hamas is believed to be holding three Israeli citizens captive, as well as the bodies of two Israeli soldiers, and has said it would like to return them to Israel in exchange for the freeing of Palestinian prisoners.


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“Right now, there is no movement on the Zionist side regarding this file,” Arouri told the Hamaslinked Al-Quds TV in an hour-long interview. “We are always ready to achieve a prisoner-swap deal with the Zionist entity through a mediator, but the entity is not moving in that direction.”


Arouri’s comments were in stark contrast to Hamas Politburo Chief Ismail Haniyeh’s statement in July that a prisoner swap deal “has become closer than any time in the past.”


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said he is committed to bringing the Israeli citizens and the bodies of the two soldiers, said to be in Hamas’s captivity, back to Israel. In October, he appointed former Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) official Yaron Blum to work on getting them returned to Israel.


The last prisoner swap between Israel and Hamas took place in 2011, when Israel freed 1,027 prisoners in exchange for the return of Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier who was taken captive by Hamas in 2006.


Arouri also said relations between Hamas and the Lebanon-based Hezbollah were “excellent.”


“There is a real readiness in Hezbollah, as there is in Iran, to provide the most possible in terms of supporting confronting the Israeli entity,” the deputy Hamas Politburo chairman stated.


In late October, Arouri met with Hezbollah Secretary- General Hassan Nasrallah in Lebanon, and in November, Haniyeh spoke with the Hezbollah leader over the phone.


In addition, when the Arab League referred to Hezbollah as a terrorist group in November, Hamas issued a statement, rejecting the label.


Speaking about Palestinian reconciliation efforts, Arouri said Hamas would not make any concessions to Fatah that are in Israel’s interest.


“If reconciliation were only to take place if [we] make concessions [that are] in the occupation’s interest, like taking away the resistance’s weapons, we will not go for it,” he said. “Because, in this way, [the reconciliation] starts to serve the occupation.”


Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has demanded that all weapons in Gaza, including those held by armed groups, be under the authority of the PA.


In mid-October, Hamas and Fatah signed a deal to advance reconciliation efforts and restore the PA’s governing authority in the Gaza Strip. However, the rival parties have struggled to implement the agreement, arguing over its details. Hamas has controlled Gaza since ousting the Fatah-dominated PA from the territory in 2007.


In his interview with Al-Quds TV, Arouri also said the Palestinian response to US President Donald Trump’s changes to US policy on Jerusalem should be “to escalate the resistance.”


In early December, Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and initiated a process to relocate the US Embassy in Tel Aviv to the holy city, breaking with decades of American policy. Nonetheless, the US president said the final status of Jerusalem would be up to Israel and the Palestinians to decide.


“Our strategy must be to really resist this occupation with all means in addition to making moves in the international arena to support the rights of our people,” the senior Hamas leader said.


Since Trump announced his decisions on Jerusalem, a number of protests and clashes have taken place in the West Bank and Gaza border region, but most of them have been much smaller than what some politicians and experts predicted.


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