Is Hamas softening on Israeli demands for a prisoner swap?
By David Hellerman, World Israel News
Egypt and Hamas have made progress on strengthening the Israel-Gaza ceasefire and on a potential prisoner swap with Israel, according to a Turkish media report.
Turkey’s state-run Anadolu News Agency reported that “progress” was made in “understandings to stabilize the truce in Gaza, speed up the pace of reconstruction, and efforts to ease the siege.”
In Cairo, Egyptian intelligence officials trying to mediate a long-term ceasefire between Israel and Gaza hosted a senior Hamas delegation that included Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh and Gaza strongman Yahye Sinwar.
The Times of Israel quoted one Hamas official saying, “These meetings are often just talk. But obligations are later borne out if each side does what it has pledged to do.”
Hamas wants to rebuild Gaza after the 11-day conflict in May. It is also seeks a return to the status quo that existed before May — particularly the opening of border crossings and wider transfer of goods to the Strip.
Israel insists that any ceasefire include a prisoner swap. Hamas is holding two Israelis, Avraham “Avera” Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed. The terror group also has the bodies of Israeli soldiers Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul.
Until today, Hamas had ruled out a prisoner swap. It wasn’t clear if the reported progress reflected a Hamas shift on an exchange of prisoners.
Israel and Egypt have maintained a blockade of Gaza to prevent weapons smuggling.
On Wednesday, a Hamas spokesperson issued a statement denying reports of a ceasefire agreement reached with Israel.
Tobias Siegal contributed to this report.