Hamas: Israel is negotiating prisoner release to aid Netanyahu before elections

Hamas sources told the Arab media on Saturday that Israel seeks a prisoner swap to bolster Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s image before upcoming elections.

By Benjamin Kerstein, The Algemeiner

Hamas is holding Israelis Avera Mengistu and Hisham a-Said prisoner in Gaza, along with the bodies of two Israeli soldiers killed during Operation Cast Lead — Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul.

According to Israeli news site Walla, Hamas sources told the Arab-language newspaper Al-Arabi Al-Jadid that Israel has initiated indirect contacts in order to negotiate the release of the prisoners through an unnamed European country, as well as U.N. Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov.

The sources stated that Hamas’ terms include the release of all Hamas members rearrested after the deal that brought Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit back to Israel in 2011. They claimed Hamas has rejected Israel’s request to return only some of the prisoners in question.

The reason for the Israeli initiative, said the sources, was to bolster Netanyahu’s chances in the elections to be held in April.