Hamas Denies Report of Breakthrough in Prisoner Exchange Deal With Israel

Jack Khoury
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Women hold pictures depicting Hamas' top leader, Ismail Haniyeh, during his visit at Ain el Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp in Sidon, Lebanon September 6, 2020.
Women hold pictures depicting Hamas' top leader, Ismail Haniyeh, during his visit at Ain el Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp in Sidon, Lebanon September 6, 2020.Credit: AZIZ TAHER / REUTERS
Jack Khoury

Senior Hamas official Moussa Abu Marzouk denied on Friday an earlier report that an Egyptian delegation of defense officials has managed to achieve a breakthrough in negotiations for a prisoner exchange deal between Israel and Hamas. 

In an interview with the France 24 network, Abu Marzouk said that the Egyptian delegation that visited the Gaza Strip last week presented an outline for the deal, but there are still many obstacles, including some laws in Israel, that prevent progress. 

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Abu Marzouk also claimed that the Israeli government's coordinator of the prisoners of war and missing persons portfolio is hesitant and does not have the mandate to enter into indirect negotiations in order to move forward regarding the deal.

The senior Hamas officials reiterated that his organization demands the release of prisoners as part of the 2011 deal that returned captured soldier Gilad Shalit,  as well as sick, elderly, women and young boys imprisoned in order to move forward.

Last week, Haaretz reported that the Egyptian delegation paid a quick visit to the enclave to promote the deal.

Moussa Abu Marzouk talks during an interview with Reuters in Cairo, Egypt, August 9, 2014.Credit: Asmaa Waguih/Reuters

Sources in Hamas told Lebanese network Al Mayadeen that the deal in question involves humanitarian aid for Gaza in exchange for video documentation of at least some of the two Israeli civilians and bodies of two Israeli soldiers held captive in Gaza.

Friday's report by London-based newspaper Al-Araby Al-Jadid cited Egyptian sources as saying that Israel will release imprisoned women and minors in exchange for information about its POW and MIA, and that the implementation of this move would be defined as a humanitarian act.

According to the report, the Egyptian delegation is expected to return to the Hamas-controlled Gaza strip, as well as pay another visit to Israel and Ramallah in the West Bank for further talks.    

Meanwhile, Palestinians sources told Haaretz that the offer to free older security prisoners, women and minors held in Israel in exchange for information about the whereabouts of its citizens and bodies of soldiers held in Gaza has been discussed in previous negotiations, adding that no progress has been made on the matter.

The sources added that it is unlikely that Egyptian intelligence would provide information to the Qatar-funded Al-Araby al-Jadid newspaper.

Other official sources are yet to comment on the report.  

Egypt has been involved in negotiating the exchange of prisoners between Hamas and Israel since as early as 2014, but there has been no real breakthrough so far. One of the issues that has stalled progress was Hamas' demand to release prisoners released in exchange for Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who were arrested again after 2014.

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