Hamas-Israel prisoner exchange on the horizon: Report

Hamas has already drawn up a list of prisoners that it wants released as part of the deal, said an anonymous source in the Egyptian government.

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

A prisoner exchange deal between Israel and Gaza-based terror group Hamas is imminent, Palestinian newspaper Al Quds reported Sunday, citing sources within the Egyptian government.

Hamas has held the bodies of two Israeli soldiers, Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul, after they were killed in battle in the Strip during Operation Tzuk Eitan in 2014.

Additionally, Hamas holds two Israeli citizens as prisoners, Hisham al-Sayid and Avera Mengistu. The two men, who their families say suffer from mental illness, entered Gaza in 2014 and 2015.

Leveraging their role as a critical interlocutor between Hamas and Israel, the Egyptian government is reportedly heavily pressuring both sides to accept a prisoner exchange deal which would see the bodies of the two soldiers and the two live civilians returned to Israel, in exchange for the release of an unknown number of convicted Palestinian terrorists.

“Cairo is exerting great pressure for the conclusion of a prisoner exchange deal between Hamas and Israel as part of a comprehensive plan aimed at reaching an agreement that guarantees a long-term truce in the Gaza Strip,” Al Quds quoted an anonymous source as saying.

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Qatar-based Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh told a recently released Palestinian female prisoner in a congratulatory phone call that “the efforts that are being made by Hamas to secure the release of all the Palestinian prisoners are continuing.”

Lebanese newspaper Al Akhtar, which is linked to the Hezbollah terror group, said that Hamas formally informed Egyptian negotiators that it is ready to accept a prisoner exchange which includes the release of female, elderly, and minor prisoners from Israeli custody.

According to Al Quds, Hamas has already drawn up a list of prisoners that it wants released as part of the deal.

“The ball is in the court of the Israeli government,” the source said.