The Hamas terror group on Monday said that a precondition for any prisoner swap deal with Israel was the release of dozens of terror convicts cut loose in a 2011 exchange and rearrested six years ago.
Reports several months ago said significant headway had been made in effort to secure a deal that would see Gaza rulers free two captive Israeli civilians and the bodies of two Israeli soldiers in exchange for Palestinian prisoners.
“The release of the prisoners freed in the 2011 deal is a condition for starting talks on a new prisoner exchange,” said Hamas spokesperson Abdel Latif al-Qanua.
“The Palestinian resistance possesses strong leverage to secure the release of the prisoners in the occupation’s prisons, and is capable of forcing the occupation to submit to its demands,” Qanua boasted.
In a 2011 deal with Hamas, Israel released 1,027 Palestinian terror convicts in exchange for captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who had been kidnapped in 2006.
After the murder of three Israeli teenagers in June 2014, Israel rearrested over 50 of them as part of Operation Brother’s Keeper in the West Bank.
Qanua, who spoke at an event marking the sixth anniversary of the arrests in front of the Red Crescent Office in Gaza, said that Israel rearresting the freed prisoners constituted “a violation of the terms of the deal” and “Zionist fraud.”
He called on Egypt, which mediated the 2011 deal, to pressure the Israeli government to “keep the terms of the deal.”
Hamas is holding Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, the two Israelis who entered Gaza, and the bodies of soldier Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul, both killed in the 2014 war in the Strip.
Abu Obeida, a spokesperson for Hamas’s military wing, the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, on Thursday reaffirmed the terror group’s willingness to come to a new exchange with Israel for the two Israelis and the soldiers’ remains.
In April 2020, Israeli officials confirmed to Channel 12 that Jerusalem was conducting talks with Hamas for a potential exchange, but no public progress has been made since.
At the time, Hamas officials were said to have demanded two rounds of prisoner releases — the first round of 250 prisoners in exchange for information on the captives, the second in exchange for the actual delivery to Israel of the prisoners and the soldiers’ bodies. Israel refused the demands at the time.