Hamas won’t negotiate over Israelis held in Gaza — official

Terror group says rearrested prisoners released under Shalit deal must be freed first; PA welcomes Israel-Turkey deal but asks to be kept in the loop

Dov Lieber is a former Times of Israel Arab affairs correspondent.

Members of Hamas's Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades (Rahim Khatib/Flash90)
Members of Hamas's Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades (Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

A Hamas official said on Monday that the Islamist terror group will not negotiate the release of Israeli soldiers and civilians until the its preconditions are met, casting doubt on the efficacy of a promise by Ankara to work toward freeing them at Israel’s behest.

As part of the rapprochement deal announced on Monday between Israel and Turkey, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Ankara has promised to help return two soldiers whose bodies are believed to be held by Hamas, and two Israelis thought to be in the captivity of the terrorist group.

A senior Israeli official said Sunday that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had personally written a letter committing to helping free them.

Hamas official Ismail Radwan, speaking in front of the Red Cross headquarters in the Gaza Strip, said the group would not negotiate the release of Israelis until all of the “Shalit prisoners” are freed, the Palestinian news site Quds Press reported.

In 2011, kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was released in exchange for 1,027 Palestinian detainees. Israel rearrested some of those released in the deal in the summer of 2014 during a search for three Israeli teenagers who were kidnapped and, it later emerged, killed by a Hamas cell.

A Hamas prisoner released as part of the Shalit deal embraces his family member in Ramallah, October 18, 2011 (photo credit: Yossi Zamir/Flash90)
A Hamas prisoner released as part of the Shalit deal embraces his family member in Ramallah, October 18, 2011. (Yossi Zamir/Flash90)


The families of Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul, both killed in the 2014 war in Gaza, as well as Avraham Abera Mengistu, who disappeared into the Strip later in 2014, have long called for the government to make sure the return of their sons was included in the agreement. A fourth Israeli man is also being held in Gaza, according to officials.

The statement by Radwan is in alignment with Hamas’s long-held public stance on the issue of negotiating over the current Israeli hostages.

The fathers of the two soldiers, Simcha Goldin and Herzl Shaul, both said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu phoned them on Thursday. However, Shaul said that, during the phone conversation, the prime minister had promised to bring his son’s body home as part of the deal with Turkey, whereas Goldin maintained that Netanyahu had updated him that his son’s remains would not be included in the detente agreement.

The deal, announced Monday, will restore ties between Israel and Turkey after six years of acrimony. As part of the agreement, Israel agreed to pay $20 million in compensation to the families of Turkish activists killed in an Israeli raid on a boat attempting to break the Gaza blockade in 2010.

Turkey agreed as part of the agreement to clamp down on Hamas terror activities emanating from Turkish territory. However, an Israeli demand that Turkey stop harboring any Hamas activists was rebuffed, and the group will continue to maintain a political presence in the country.

Israel refused to lift its blockade on Gaza, a main Turkish demand, but instead said it would allow imports and aid to flow to the Palestinian enclave via its port in Ashdod.

PA welcomes Israel-Turkey rapprochement deal ‘in principle’

Palestinian Authority Minister of Foreign Affairs Riyad al-Maliki said Ramallah welcomed the agreement between Turkey and Israel “in principle,” but asked that Ankara work with Ramallah on aspects of the agreement concerning the Palestinians.

Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki. (AFP/Miguel Medina)
Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki (AFP/Miguel Medina)

Speaking to the Palestinian Ma’an news agency, Maliki said the PA wouldn’t interfere with the terms of the agreement between Israel and Turkey, but said the aspects of the deal relating to the Palestinians “were of core interest to the Palestinian leadership” and Ramallah should have been kept in the loop.

While Ramallah welcomed Turkey’s plans to build a desalinization plant in Gaza, Maliki pointed out that the PA is already building a €400-million plant in Gaza sponsored by the European Union.

“If Turkey wants to help,” Maliki said, “it should all be part of the national plan for the development of all the Palestinian territories, and it must be done through full coordination with the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian government.”

Maliki finished by urging Ankara to remember that the PA is the internationally recognized address for the Palestinians.

Palestinian Islamic Jihad calls Turkey deal ‘an excuse’ to normalize with Israel

Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), a terror group based in Gaza, announced on Monday in a press release that they reject any reconciliation or normalization efforts with Israel, referring to the deal between Israel and Turkey.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei meets with a delegation of Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Tehran on Sunday, May 1, 2016. (Khamenei's Twitter page)
Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (right) meets with a delegation of Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Tehran on May 1, 2016. (Khamenei’s Twitter page)

The group called Turkey’s rapprochement deal with Israel “an excuse” and “a justification” to normalize relations with the Jewish state, but said they welcome any effort “to help alleviate the suffering of the Palestinian people.”

PIJ’s main financial benefactor is the Islamic Republic of Iran, a country not on good terms with Turkey.

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