Hamas, Israel Renew Negotiations Over Prisoner Exchange Deal, Report Says

Palestinian sources tell Al-Araby Al-Jadeed Israel wants to make progress before April election, but say Hamas hasn't changed its demands of Israel

File photo: Shabaan al-Sayed (L) and Ayeli Mengistu (R) next to a poster depicting their sons, held by Hamas in Gaza, after a press conference calling for their release, September 6, 2018.
AFP

Hamas and Israel have renewed indirect negotiations of a prisoner exchange deal, Hamas sources told Al-Araby Al-Jadeed newspaper on Saturday, adding that Israel has sent messages on this matter via intermediaries in Europe and Egypt.

The sources say Israel wants to advance a deal before its April 9 election. They admit Israel tries to resurface the issue of the Israeli civilians and soldiers' bodies held by Hamas from time to time for political gain, but say the organization now believes there is sincere will on the Israeli side to reach a deal.

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Hamas, on its part, hasn't changed its demands, which include the releases of all prisoners who were freed in the 2011 Gilad Shalit deal and rearrested since then. It was recently reported that Israel is willing to compromise on this point, but both sides vehemently denied any progress in negotiations.

In July, the Al Hayat daily reported that Germany was mediating between Israel and Hamas. Western sources told the publication that two German envoys visited Gaza in secret several times over the past three years and met with senior Hamas officials who were in charge of negotiations. Mediation took place through two channels, the report said: between German representatives of Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and with a third mediator located in Berlin.

Germany reportedly initiated contact with both sides and emphasized that Israel and Hamas consider Germany a fair entity that can assist in talks, such as when Israel accepted Germany's proposal to secure the release of captive Israeli soldier Shalit in 2011.

Hamas is holding two Israeli civilians, Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, who crossed the border into the Gaza Strip, as well as the bodies of soldiers Staff Sgt. Oron Shaul and Lieutenant Hadar Goldin, who were killed during Operation Protective Edge in 2014.