Hamas: Reports about progress on prisoner swap 'inaccurate'

Recent Israeli “leaks” about progress in the negotiations to reach a prisoner swap deal were “inaccurate,” a Hamas official said.

HAMAS MEMBERS in Gaza. (photo credit: REUTERS)
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Hamas on Thursday accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of “foot-dragging” regarding a possible prisoner-exchange agreement and said he was not serious in dealing with its leader’s recent “initiative” to reach a deal.
Recent Israeli “leaks” about progress in the negotiations to reach a prisoner swap deal were “inaccurate,” a Hamas official said.
The official was responding to a Channel 13 report according to which Netanyahu convened the ministerial cabinet last week to discuss a possible prisoner swap with Hamas. Another report on Channel 12 said “important talks” were under way with Hamas to strike a deal.
Hamas is holding the remains of soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin, who were killed during Operation Protective Edge in 2014, as well as Israeli civilians Avraham Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayyed, who separately entered the Gaza Strip on their own in 2014 and 2015, respectively.
The reports in the Israeli media were aimed at “serving Netanyahu politically,” the unnamed Hamas official told the Palestinian daily Al-Quds.
According to the official, these reports constitute a “new attempt to bypass [Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar’s] humanitarian initiative and silence the voices of the families of the Israeli soldiers held by [Hamas’s military wing] Izzadin al-Qassam Brigades.”
Last month, Sinwar said Hamas was prepared to make a “partial concession” on the issue of a prisoner swap in return for the release of elderly, female, sick and minor prisoners held in Israeli prisons. Hamas has described Sinwar’s proposal as a “humanitarian initiative” in light of the coronavirus pandemic.
Several parties have offered to act as mediators between his group and Israel, the Hamas official said. “Hamas is dealing with everyone with a positive approach and has stressed to all the mediators that the initiative still exists,” he added.
The Israeli government did not seriously deal with the mediators, the official said.
“The ball remains in the court of Netanyahu and his government, and Hamas is prepared to conduct indirect negotiations for the release of the [Palestinian] prisoners,” he said. Hamas is also prepared to make “slight concessions to its previous conditions in order to reach a deal,” he added without providing details.
The family of fallen soldier Goldin has been in the forefront of the battle to pressure Hamas to return the bodies of the two soldiers.
Last week, the Goldin family said it had spoken with and received an update from Coordinator for Captives and Missing Persons Yaron Blum on Holocaust Remembrance Day.
“There is an opportunity for the immediate return of our son Hadar and Sgt. Oron Shaul and the civilians Mengistu and al-Sayyed,” the Goldin family said Wednesday night. “It would be an act of national irresponsibility to miss that opportunity.”