Hamas official Ismail Haniyeh (R) and the Emir of Qatar Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani arrive at a cornerstone laying ceremony in the southern Gaza Strip.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Israel and Hamas are engaged in indirect "chats" through European mediation, senior Hamas official Ahmed Yousef told the Palestinian Ma'an News Agency on Sunday.
According to Yousef, a senior adviser to Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, the indirect talks on the cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, and the possible opening of a seaport to end the Israeli blockade of Gaza, are expected to increase after the new Israeli government is formed in the coming weeks.
"European diplomats and civil society activists come to the Gaza Strip constantly and pose Israeli viewpoints and convey the reaction of the movement through unofficial chats," Yousef said.
An Israeli official dismissed the report. "There are no negotiations with Hamas," he said.
The Hamas official said that international parties were also mediating efforts to return the bodies of Israeli soldiers killed during Operation Protective Edge in the summer that are thought to still be in Gaza.
"Hamas has a lot of important cards to play, and surprises on the topic of the missing soldiers," he said, adding that a "Hamas surprise" would be revealed after the formation of the new Israeli government.
Yousef told Ma'an that a condition of Hamas releasing the bodies was Israel's first releasing Palestinian prisoners freed in the Gilad Schalit deal who were rearrested during Operation Brother's Keeper which followed the kidnapping of three Israeli teens in the West Bank in June 2014.
Former US president Jimmy Carter is scheduled to arrive in Gaza on April 30, and Yousef said that he will meet with Hamas leaders, and then meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to help mediate between the two factions' stalled national reconciliation.Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.