Hamas threatens Israeli prisoners’ safety if no deal reached

Khalil al-Hayya also claimed that Israel no longer links a prisoner swap to rehabilitation of the Gaza Strip.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

The deputy head of Hamas in the Gaza Strip again threatened the Israeli prisoners it holds Monday if Jerusalem does not agree to release a long list of jailed terrorists in exchange, Israel Hayom reported Tuesday.

In an interview on the Qatari-based Al-Jazeera network, Khalil al-Hayya said, “If Israel doesn’t pay the price of the deal, its captives won’t see the light of day.”

Al-Hayya also said that Israel had “failed” to keep to its stated commitment to link a prisoner exchange to the rehabilitation of Gaza following May’s Operation Guardian of the Walls, in which hundreds of homes and other buildings and infrastructure were destroyed in pinpoint airstrikes when Hamas indiscriminately fired thousands of rockets into Israel.

Already in September, Jerusalem began allowing some construction material as well as other goods into the Strip. It increased by 5,000 the number of Gazan businessmen allowed to enter Israel, and boosted the water supply it brings into Gaza by another five million cubic meters. This followed a month in which dozens of incendiary balloons were launched into Israel and violent demonstrations took place on the border with the coastal enclave, including one in which an Israeli soldier, Barel Shmueli, was killed.

Hamas currently holds Israeli civilians Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, two men with mental health issues who crossed into Gaza in 2014 and 2015, who are believed to be alive. The terrorist group also has the bodies of IDF soldiers St.-Sgt. Oron Shaul and Lt. Hadar Goldin that they abducted during 2014’s Operation Protective Edge.

Hamas has a long list of prisoners it wants freed in exchanged for the four Israelis, not all of them from its own ranks. Al-Hayya told Al-Jazeera that among the demands are the release of the single Fatah and five Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorists who temporarily escaped the Gilboa Prison in September, becoming hailed symbols of Palestinian “resistance” in the process.

Ahmad Sa’adat, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) mastermind behind the 2001 assassination of then-tourism minister Rehavam Ze’evi is also on the roster, as is Marwan Barghouti, a top Fatah official serving five life sentences for orchestrating the murder of Israelis during the Second Intifada.

Barghouti is especially popular in Fatah and is considered a top candidate to replace the aged and ailing Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. If he were to be freed it could set off power struggles within the PA that could only help Hamas, and if Barghouti won them it wouldn’t hurt that Hamas’ foremost rival was headed by someone beholden to them for his freedom.

Israel has rejected the idea of releasing Barghouti many times since his sentencing nearly 20 years ago.

Al-Hayya’s warning comes on the heels of Egyptian Intelligence Minister Abbas Kamel’s briefing to Israeli reporters last week that there have been significant developments in the indirect negotiations between the two sides that Egypt has been leading.

Kamel is expected in Jerusalem at the end of the month. According to a report Saturday in the London-based Al-Arab newspaper, Cairo is also expecting to receive from Hamas videotapes of the Israeli captives to show to the Israelis.