No Progress in Prisoner Exchange Deal With Israel, Hamas Says

Although breakthroughs have been reported, Hamas accuses Israel of evading its commitments to freeing prisoners in negotiations

Jack Khoury
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Hamas policemen stand guard at a traffic circle during the coronavirus outbreak in the northern Gaza Strip, May 3, 2020.
Hamas policemen stand guard at a traffic circle during the coronavirus outbreak in the northern Gaza Strip, May 3, 2020.Credit: MOHAMMED SALEM/ REUTERS
Jack Khoury

There has been “no significant progress” in the prisoner exchange deal between Hamas and Israel, Hamas announced Friday. The organization denied recent reports of developments in negotiations, which would see the return of civilians and the remains of soldiers held in Gaza for Hamas prisoners detained by Israel.

Hamas added that “Israel is trying to evade its commitments to freeing prisoners.” The two sides have been discussing a possible deal since March through mediators, and its terms would include significant medical aid and other projects as part of the effort to stem the coronavirus outbreak.

Israel had rejected Hamas’s terms for a deal to be carried out in two phases, the first of which would include sending signs of life from Israeli civilians Avera Mengistu and Hisham Al-Sayad.

In past weeks, negotiations have seemed to be on the upswing. Netanyahu twice convened the ministerial committee on captives and the missing persons for updates on the talks. Yaron Blum, who is coordinating the efforts, recently spoke with the families of Capt. Hadar Goldin and SSgt. Oron Shaul, whose bodies have been held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip since 2014. Likud Minister Yoav Galant confirmed in an interview with the Kan Public Broadcaster that there have been breakthroughs in the indirect negotiations.

Since Goldin and Shaul were killed, Hamas has made any prisoner exchange deal conditional on releasing the prisoners of the Shalit deal, referring to a few dozen West Bank Palestinians who were released in the prisoner exchange for Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in 2011 and rearrested in 2014, in response to the kidnapping and murder of three Jewish teens in the Gush Etzion settlement bloc. Senior Hamas officials recently discussed the possibility of advancing this deal.