Hamas announced on Monday an imminent prisoner swap deal with Israel, saying that it has “forced the occupation to yield to the demands of the resistance.”
In a statement on the 10th anniversary of the Wafa al-Ahrar prisoner exchange in 2011, the movement said: “Liberating the prisoners is a strategic path for Hamas… The movement is deploying every effort and is still making progress to achieve this, and it will not retreat from this approach.”
Hamas’ statement confirmed the presence of vigorous negotiations over a prisoner exchange deal brokered by Egypt. Last week, the movement held high-level talks in Cairo, informing Egyptian authorities that it was ready for a prisoners’ swap agreement that would be either comprehensive or in two stages.
The movement had proposed a two-stage deal, the first phase of which includes the release of two Israeli civilian prisoners, Avraham Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, in addition to information about soldiers Shaul Aaron and Hadar Goldin, in exchange for the release of Palestinian prisoners, who include elderly, children, women and detainees suffering from sicknesses, as well as bodies of deceased prisoners.
In the second stage, negotiations are underway regarding the handover of soldiers in exchange for 800 prisoners. A source familiar with these contacts previously said that Hamas had proposed handing over documented content about the two Israeli soldiers after the implementation of the first phase. But Israel did not respond to the proposal.
It is believed that the obstacle impeding the exchange deal is Israel’s refusal to release prisoners, who are included on Hamas’ so-called “VIP” list. Israeli sources said that Prime Minister Naftali Bennett feared that the release of senior prisoners would harm unity within his coalition.
Hamas’ announcement of an imminent swap deal came in parallel with the continuation of a hunger strike for the sixth consecutive day by prisoners belonging to the Islamic Jihad, in protest against mistreatment by the Administration of the Prisons Authority after the Gilboa Tunnel operation.
The 250 prisoners are calling on the prison administration to stop the abuse measures that it had imposed on them as of Sept. 6, when six Palestinian prisoners managed to escape from Gilboa prison.