Hamas on Tuesday again denied that there was any progress regarding a prisoner exchange agreement with Israel, but said Egypt and Russia were involved in mediation efforts to secure a deal.
A Hamas official claimed that recent reports in the Israeli media were part of a “campaign to mislead the families of the Zionist prisoners and exert pressure on the Palestinian prisoners and their families.”
The unnamed official was quoted by Hamas-affiliated websites as saying that “there is no qualitative progress in the negotiations conducted with the occupation through mediators.”
The official warned Palestinians against relying “on the programmed Zionist media” and said that in the event of anything new, Hamas will make it public.”
Palestinian sources claimed that Israel refused a Hamas demand to release prisoners serving life sentences for their roles in terrorist activities. According to the sources, Israel does not rule out the possibility of releasing prisoners held without trial under administrative detention emergency regulations.
Maher Obeid, member of Hamas’s “political bureau,” confirmed on Tuesday that his movement was in contact with Egypt and Russia in a bid to reach a prisoner swap with Israel. According to Obeid, the contacts were still at an early stage.
He said that Egyptian officials contacted Hamas last month after the movement’s leader, Yahya Sinwar, expressed readiness to make “partial concessions” that would pave the way for a prisoner exchange deal. Sinwar called for the release of elderly, female, minor and sick prisoners held by Israel in light of the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. “The Egyptians don’t have anything yet,” Obeid added.
The Russians, he said, mentioned the issue of the prisoner swap in an exchange of messages with Hamas, although they hadn’t been authorized by Israel to act as mediators.
The Hamas official also denied reports about progress on a possible deal with Israel, adding that the Israeli government was “preoccupied with its internal [coalition] problems.”
Obeid reiterated Hamas’s readiness to reach a deal with Israel and said the prisoners have an interest in concluding it as soon as possible.
Hamas is holding the remains of IDF soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin, who were killed during the 2104 Operation Protective Edge, as well as Israeli civilians Hisham al-Sayyed and Avera Mengistu, who separately entered the Gaza Strip on their own.