Hamas has accepted an Egyptian proposal for a prisoner swap with Israel and is awaiting Jerusalem’s response to the offer, the terror group’s leader in the Gaza Strip, Yahya Sinwar, said Thursday night, according to Channel 2 news.
A report earlier this month in the Palestinian daily Al Quds quoted sources in Cairo as saying the Egyptian offer would see Israel first hand over the bodies of 39 Palestinians killed in the 2014 Gaza war, 19 of whom are Hamas members, in exchange for Hamas acknowledging the fate of IDF soldiers Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul. The IDF says the two were killed in the Gaza Strip during the 2014 war. Hamas has hinted that it is holding the two soldiers and has also implied that they could still be alive.
The terror group is also believed to be holding three Israeli civilians — Avraham Abera Mengistu, Hisham al-Sayed and Juma Ibrahim Abu Ghanima — who are all believed to have entered the Gaza Strip of their own accord.
In the second stage of the Egyptian plan, Israel will reportedly release the so-called “Shalit captives” — 58 Palestinians who were rearrested in the summer of 2014 after being set free in the 2011 swap for IDF soldier Gilad Shalit. Hamas will then enter into genuine prisoner exchange talks with the Jewish state, the report said. The talks would reportedly be mediated by Egyptian intelligence services.
Speaking with Gaza youth Thursday, Sinwar also claimed that Lior Lotan, Israel’s former chief negotiator who stepped down last month, resigned over internal differences regarding the Israeli position.
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said in August that Israel must draw up “clear boundaries” for prisoner swap negotiations in order to “make clear to [Israel’s enemies] that we have no intention of compromising on the security of the people of Israel.”
Liberman also said Israel must not repeat the “mistake” of the 2011 Shalit prisoner exchange, when Israel freed over 1,000 Palestinian security prisoners, including Sinwar.
Also released in that deal was Mahmoud Kawasme, who later helped fund the June 2014 kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers who were killed shortly after they were abducted.
Since the capture of their sons’ bodies, the Shaul and Goldin families have waged public campaigns for their return, and have accused the government of failing to do enough to achieve that goal.
Dov Lieber and Alexander Fulbright contributed to this report.