(photo credit: REUTERS)
Hamas reportedly turned down an Israeli prisoner-swap offer that would have allowed for one Israeli to be exchanged for one Hamas member.
According to a source from the terrorist organization who spoke with Israel Radio on Sunday, the offer proposed to exchange Hamas member Bilal Razaineh for one of two Israelis who are thought to be alive in the Gaza Strip.
Razaineh, 24, was caught attempting to enter Israel in November and is said to be a high-ranking Hamas operative, as he has reportedly been a member of the Izzadin Kassam Brigades, Hamas’s armed wing, for nearly a decade.
The offer was said to be a “humanitarian exchange,” due to the fact that all three reportedly suffer from mental or psychological illnesses. It was turned down because it had to be “all or nothing,” according to the source, who added that Hamas would welcome a deal with Israel that included Egypt as a mediator.
Avraham “Abera” Mengistu was last seen in Israel on September 7, 2014, when soldiers saw him climb the fence into the Gaza Strip.
Hisham al-Sayed, a young Beduin man who suffers from schizophrenia, was last seen when he crossed into the Gaza Strip in April 2015. Hamas is also thought to be holding the bodies of Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin, two IDF soldiers killed in the 2014 Operation Protective Edge.
Senior Hamas delegations, including one led by Ismail Haniyeh, have visited Cairo for talks with Egyptian intelligence officials over the past two weeks. On Saturday, Israel Radio cited a report by the Al-Araby al-Jadeed
newspaper, which said that senior Egyptian intelligence officials encouraged Hamas to restart negotiations with Israel for the release of the two Israeli civilians and the soldiers’ remains.
But according to the Hamas source, Egypt is not willing to mediate the talks between Israel and Hamas, and therefore no progress has been made toward reaching a prisoner swap deal.
In July 2015, a senior Hamas official said Israel had begun back-channel negotiations to recover the bodies of the two soldiers. Negotiations stalled after the terrorist organization insisted on the release of all prisoners Israel re-arrested for violating their parole conditions after the Gilad Schalit prisoner swap.