Hamas Will Demand Release of Palestinian Fugitives in Any Future Prisoner Exchange Deal

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Palestinians rally in support of the six escaped prisoners, in Jenin, this week.
Palestinians rally in support of the six escaped prisoners, in Jenin, this week. Credit: Jaafar Ashtiyeh - AFP

Hamas will demand that the Palestinian high-security prisoners who escaped from a prison in northern Israel be released as part of any future prisoner exchange deal negotiated with Israel, said the spokesman of Hamas' military wing on Saturday night. 

Al-Qassam Brigades Spokesman Abu Obeida added that Hamas will not allow Israeli security forces to attack the Jenin refugee camp where officials suspect one or both of the two fugitives who remain at large may be hiding. The other four fugitives were captured this weekend. 

"The heroic prisoners who came out of the tunnel in Gilboa Prison and were arrested will be released," Obeida said. "Al-Qassam headquarters has decided that no prisoner exchange deal will take place without including them."

"The Al-Qassam leadership assures the residents of Jenin and the refugee camp that it will not allow any Israeli invasion of the camp. We will act in accordance with our national and religious principles," Obeida continued. 

A rally in support of the high-security Palestinian fugitives in Gaza, Saturday. Credit: Mahmud Hams - AFP

Obeida's remarks came as clashes broke out between Palestinians and Israeli soldiers in the West Bank after shots were fired toward IDF personnel, according to Palestinian reports. 

Rocket sirens also sounded for the second night in a row in Israeli border towns around the Gaza Strip on Saturday night. The sirens went off in Sderot and the Sha'ar HaNegev Regional Council, with the latter not reporting any injuries in the area or damage to property. The IDF reported that the iron dome missile defense system was activated, and intercepted one rocket from the enclave. 

On Friday, shortly after two of the six fugitives were arrested, Gaza militants had also launched a rocket into Israel. The missile was intercepted. Following the launch Israeli fighter jets attacked several Hamas targets in the strip. No injuries were reported. In the West Bank, Palestinians who gathered to rally in support of the escaped prisoners clashed with Israeli forces, and in some areas shot at and hurled improvised explosives at the soldiers.

In response to Friday's arrests, Hamas Spokesman Fazi Barhoum said that "The arrest of the heroic prisoners is another round in the open and ongoing battle with the occupation. What happened strengthens the Palestinian people to continue the struggle against the occupation and support of prisoners." 

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