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Israel not planning to free Islamic Jihad prisoners following ceasefire

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

The West Bank head of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group, Bassam al-Saadi, is seen shortly after his arrest by Israeli troops on August 2, 2022. (Courtesy)
The West Bank head of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group, Bassam al-Saadi, is seen shortly after his arrest by Israeli troops on August 2, 2022. (Courtesy)

Israel did not agree to release Khalil al-Awawda, a Palestinian Islamic Jihad member who is hunger-striking in protest of his detention by Israel without any charges, nor the terror group’s West Bank leader Bassam al-Saadi, who was arrested last week in a move believed to have sparked the round of violence in Gaza.

Israel has no intentions to release the prisoners early as demanded by PIJ following the ceasefire in Gaza last night, The Times of Israel has learned.

Meanwhile, senior Israeli officials point out the intensive and, in their eyes, successful ongoing contacts with Egypt, Qatar, the United States and other countries during the fighting in Gaza.

“They knew all the elements of our decision-making beforehand and also our efforts to avoid acting, and to ensure [the conflict] was as limited as possible,” says one of the officials.

“The Qataris have an important role here as a player that creates economic stability,” the official says.

These efforts helped in the ceasefire process, which began on Saturday.

The fact that Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s general-secretary Ziad Nakhaleh was in Tehran meeting the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps made it harder to him to agree to a ceasefire, according to the officials.

Officials were especially pleased with Egypt’s role. “Egyptian mediation was very intensive. Our relationship with them is extremely close.”

Israel’s political leadership initially wanted the ceasefire to come into effect yesterday afternoon, but had to give a few more hours to allow the IDF to complete operations, say the officials.

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