Middle East

Israel, Hamas reach ‘understandings’ on prisoner swap – report

Important and positive developments have unexpectedly occurred in secret negotiations between Israel and Hamas towards reaching a prisoner exchange agreement, Egyptian sources revealed on Friday.

The sources told the Rai al-Youm online newspaper that the Egyptians have “accomplished many points related to the prisoner swap deal, which may be announced within a few weeks.”

According to the sources, the Egyptians received “official and clear guarantees from Hamas and Israel that comply with the broad outlines of the deal.”

“There are understandings on many points, and Cairo has completed more than 70% of the deal, and the rest may be related to the details of time, place, guarantees and other logistical matters,” the sources said.

Hassan Yousef, a senior Hamas official in the West Bank, was quoted as saying that there are “significant surprises” that will be part of the prisoner exchange deal between Hamas and Israel.

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Captured IDF soldier Gilad Schalit (center), seen here shortly after his release from Gaza in October 2011aptured IDF soldier Gilad Schalit (center), seen here shortly after his release from Gaza in October 2011 (credit: AVI OHAYON - GPO)Captured IDF soldier Gilad Schalit (center), seen here shortly after his release from Gaza in October 2011aptured IDF soldier Gilad Schalit (center), seen here shortly after his release from Gaza in October 2011 (credit: AVI OHAYON – GPO)

“The discussions that are taking place are very secretive and in the hands of the [Hamas military wing Izzaddin] Al-Qassam Brigades, and important developments have taken place,” Yousef told Rai al-Youm.

The deal, he added, “will fulfill the aspirations of our prisoners in Israeli prisons.”

Last week, Hamas said that the issue of the prisoners remains at the top of its priorities and it will not rest until they are all released from Israeli prisons.

“Liberating our detainees from the occupation’s prisons is a religious, national, and humanitarian duty,” Hamas said in a statement on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the Gilad Schalit prisoner exchange agreement.

Hamas refers to that deal as Wafa al-Ahrar (“Faithful to the Free”).

“Liberating the detainees is a strategic path for Hamas,” the statement read.

IDF soldier Gilad Schalit was captured by Palestinian terrorists in a cross-border raid via tunnels near the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip on June 25, 2006.

Five years and four months after he was captured, a deal was reached between Israel and Hamas to release Schalit in exchange for 1,027 Palestinian and Arab prisoners.

Hamas is holding the bodies of IDF soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin, who were killed during the 2014 war in the Gaza Strip. Hamas is also holding two Israeli citizens, Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, who entered the Gaza Strip on their own in 2014 and 2015.

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