Hamas willing to accept fewer prisoner releases in exchange for swap deal: report

Hamas may be willing to compromise on the number of released prisoners in a future exchange deal with Israel, but Israeli officials are not holding out their hopes, security sources told Walla News on Sunday.

The news comes as security officials reportedly held talks with Hamas through Egyptian mediation about a week and a half ago about a possible prisoner swap, according to the report.

The talks reportedly took place as Ghassan Alian, head of the IDF unit, Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, began his new job about two weeks ago. According to the report, Egyptian intelligence officials met with Israeli security officials at the Erez crossing and then continued to the Hamas-controlled area to speak with officials from the terror group.

The discussions took place for several hours, mainly to reach an exchange agreement.

Security officials made it clear to Hamas that the terror group would need to compromise on the issue if they wanted economic progress, although representatives sent by Yahya Sinwar, Hamas leader in Gaza, insisted on the release of hundreds of terrorists. Officials stated that “slow progress” had been made by the end of the talks, according to Walla.

Israeli officials don’t have high expectations. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the head of the National Security Council, Meir Ben Shabbat, were briefed on the details of the talks.

The news comes after two rockets were fired into Israel from the Gaza Strip on Thursday night and Friday night, and the IDF responded by striking several Hamas-owned targets throughout the coastal enclave.

According to Walla, security officials are still not sure who fired the rockets. According to Palestinian WAFA news, two Palestinians were injured during the IDF response on Friday night.

On Saturday, the Palestinians celebrated Prisoner’s Day, stating that around 4,500 Palestinians are currently being held in Israeli jails and that more than 5,000 Palestinians had been arrested at some point during the crown pandemic. Since the beginning of the pandemic, 367 Palestinian prisoners have been infected with the virus, according to WAFA.

The Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar reported on Saturday that the Palestinians hope that around two-thirds of the Palestinians currently detained in Israeli jails will be released once a prisoner exchange agreement is reached.

Hamas official Mousa Mohammed Abu Marzook denied in late March that negotiations on a possible prisoner exchange had been renewed, according to Palestinian media.

Hamas currently has the remains of Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin, two soldiers believed to have died in Operation Protective Edge 2014, as well as two civilians, Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed.

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