Hamas Reportedly Rejects Israeli Offer for Partial Prisoner Swap

Hamas turned down a proposal to free one of two Israelis believed held in Gaza in exchange for Israel's release of a prisoner a court has deemed as mentally unfit to stand trial, Israel Radio reports.

Two Israelis believed held in Gaza, a third who crossed the border but his whereabouts unclear, and on the left, the two Israeli soldiers killed in a 2014 war whose remains have been held by Hamas.

Hamas has rejected a proposal to swap one of two Israelis believed held in Gaza for a Palestinian prisoner described as mentally unfit to stand trial, Israel Radio reported on Sunday.

A Hamas source says the group has told a mediator it objects to any one-on-one exchange and wants either "a full deal or nothing." The organization has also asked to get Egypt involved as a mediator on the issue. 

Israel had proposed freeing the Hamas prisoner for either Avera Mengistu or Hisham al-Sayid, the radio said.  

Haaretz's Amos Harel has identified the prisoner Israel was interested in freeing as Bilal Razaina, brother of a Hamas security official reported in Gaza. Israel has held Razaina in custody for the past two months. 

Hamas has thus far refused to even discuss a humanitarian exchange to free civilians and the remains of two soldiers, Lieutenant Hadar Goldin and First Sergeant Oron Shaul, killed in a 2014 Gaza War.

Top line: Soldiers whose remains held in Gaza
First Sergeant Oron Shaul, killed in Shejaiyeh area, July 2014
Lieutenant Hadar Goldin, killed in Rafah area, August 2014

A third Israeli believed to be held in Gaza is Juma Abu Ghanima, who crossed the border but it is not clear whether he is in Hamas' custody. 

Razaina, 24, suffers from mental problems, his family says. He was arrested on November 27, 2016 while crossing the border from Gaza to Israel.

On December 28, he was indicted in Be’er Sheva District Court, based on information provided under questioning by the Shin Bet. The Shin Bet statement said Razaina was an activist in Hamas' military wing, the Izzedin Al-Qassam Brigades, and was involved in digging tunnels.

The Shin Bet has also said that Razaina did guard duty for Hamas and was underwent sniper training. The indictment charges him with membership and activity in an illegal association (the Hamas military wing) and for weapons offenses.

The Shin Bet has also said that Razaina provided a lot of information about the tunnels and Hamas' use of civilians' homes in Gaza for terrorist activity.

Razaina is a younger brother of Mustafa Razaina, head of the Hamas internal security forces (the Palestinian Shin Bet) in the northern Gaza Strip.

The Israeli Shin Bet says he also worked as his elder brother’s “escort.” What was not mentioned in the Shin Bet statements or in the indictment is that Razaina brother being held by Israel has serious mental problems, and that he was likely brought into the military wing due to his brother’s high position.

A statement issued by the Razaina family in Gaza the day after the Israeli report of his arrest is that Bilal Razaina is not a member of the military wing, was not active in the organization and did not work for Hamas.

The family said that the younger Razaina brother “suffers from mental instability and was still under treatment, until recently.” The family said they have no medical proof to back up the claim,  but accuse Israel of having used torture to extract his confession about Hamas activity.

On January 26, a psychiatrist testified about Razaina's mental state on behalf of the state at Be’er Sheva District Court.

The expert opinion was that in his present condition, Razaina is not fit to stand trial and requires psychiatric hospitalization. Rozaina has since been transferred to the psychiatric hospital in Be’er Sheva.