Israel-Hamas Talks Almost Derailed Over Palestinian Prisoners, Group's Chief Says

Ismail Haniyeh says prisoner issue was at the top of the agenda in internal discussions over understandings with Israel

Head of Hamas Political Bureau Ismail Haniyeh in Gaza City, March 27, 2019.
Adel Hana,AP

Talks to calm tension between Israel and Hamas were nearly derailed over the issue of Palestinian prisoners, who ended a week-long hunger strike on Monday. Ismail Haniyeh, head of the Hamas Political Bureau, said Tuesday afternoon.

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Last week, Palestinian security prisoners from Hamas and Islamic Jihad began a hunger strike over the installation of cellphone jamming equipment in Israeli prisons. The strike ended Monday after the Prison Service agreed to install public phones in prisoners' cellblocks and allow them to make supervised calls to relatives.

Haniyeh, who participated in a meeting of the Palestinian legal counsel in Gaza, said that the prisoner issue was at the top of the agenda in internal discussions over understandings with Israel and received the support of the Hamas military branch along with the rest of the factions.

According to Haniyeh the prisoners managed an amazing feat that will have repercussions for the peace talks in Gaza. He added that the prisoner issue came up in talks with Israel through the Egyptian mediators.

Haniyeh noted that UN Special Envoy Nickolay Mladenov was also involved in the talks and had an open line of communication with the prisoners in Israeli prisons.

Earlier Tuesday in the West Bank, Palestinian Authority spokesperson Nabil Abu Rudeineh said in Ramallah, "As long as Jerusalem is not on the table, Trump's [Middle East peace] plan will not be on the table.”

Abu Rudeineh, who also serves as Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' personal adviser, added that any peace initiative should be based on previous principles that guided the negotiations: A two-state solution based on the 1967 borders, with two capitals in Jerusalem (an Israeli one in the west of the city and a Palestinian one in the east).

The Palestinian spokesperson noted that the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) will convene its central committee in the coming days to make decisions that may lead to the end of security coordination with Israel and a withdrawal from the Paris Protocol, which was signed in 1994 and settled economic relations between the two parties.