Earlier this week, Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar indicated his group’s readiness to make concessions in order to reach a prisoner swap deal with Israel.
Hamas, he said, was prepared to make a “partial concession” on the issue in return for the release of elderly, female and minor prisoners held in Israeli prisons, in the context of a humanitarian initiative in light of the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.
Sinwar said that the indirect negotiations between Hamas and Israel over a prisoner exchange were suspended after the start of the political crisis in Israel.
Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem said on Tuesday that his group “affirms the initiative made by its leader, Yahya Sinwar, regarding the release of the Israelis it is holding in the Gaza Strip in return for the release of a number of Palestinian prisoners, particularly women, the elderly and minors.
“Hamas will deal in a responsible manner with any real response to this initiative,” Qassem said.
In response to Sinwar’s remark, the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement that Israel is open to negotiations on a prisoner release with Hamas.
Israel’s Coordinator for Captives and MIAs, Yair Bloom, as well as National Security Council and defense officials, are ready for “constructive action” regarding the two civilians and the remains of IDF soldiers Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul, the statement said. It also called for immediate negotiations with Hamas through mediators to reach an agreement.
Musa Dudeen, a senior Hamas official in charge of the “prisoners’ portfolio” in the group, said that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would bear “full responsibility” for the failure of efforts to reach a prisoner exchange agreement.
Dudeen said that Sinwar’s initiative “stemmed from the great responsibility Hamas feels regarding the issue of the Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli prisons.”
He added: “We’re not talking about an initiative: rather, we are talking about a willingness on the part of the resistance to be flexible on a specific part regarding the captured Zionist soldiers if [Israel] shows a real and serious intention in dealing with this file.”
Dudeen also said that the ball was now in the Israeli court, adding that “there’s no need to send initiatives through mediators.”