Egypt has presented a new framework for prisoner exchanges between Hamas and Israel, Palestinian newspaper Al-Quds reported Thursday. According to the new initiative, Hamas will engage in talks without preconditions.
So far, Hamas has insisted Israel release the prisoners freed in the Gilad Shalit deal as a precondition to moving forward; these 54 Palestinians were re-arrested after violating the terms of their release.
According to the new Egyptian proposal, Israel would transfer 39 bodies it is holding, including the bodies of 19 Hamas operatives killed in the last round of conflict in exchange for information on the fate of the missing Israeli civilians and the bodies of Israeli soldiers. Then, the Palestinian prisoners who were re-arrested would be freed and indirect negotiations would begin, negotiated by Egyptian intelligence. Hamas has not yet responded to the proposal, and there is no official Egyptian approval to publish this information.
In the past, Israel has proposed returning the tens of Palestinian citizens who crossed into Israel on their own volition, in exchange for Israeli civilians Abera Mengistu and Hisham Abu-Sayid who are currently held in Gaza. Another suggestion was to return 19 Hamas member's bodies in exchange for the bodies of Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul. Both of these proposals were rejected by Hamas.
A Hamas delegation, led by Ismail Haniyya, has been in Egypt since Saturday, for a series of meetings with top Egyptian intelligence officials. This is Haniyya's first time outside of the Gaza Strip since his election to head Hamas' political bureau. Other members of the delegation included officials from the political bureau as well as Marwan Issa, a member of Hamas' military branch.
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