Hamas’s political head, Ismail Haniyeh, reportedly said over the weekend, that his Islamist party, that rules the Gaza Strip, will agree to a prisoner swap deal with the state of Israel, only in return for an acceptable price.
Haniyeh’s remarks came on the eve of the Al-Fitr Muslims’ Feast or Eid and following Arab media reports that had earlier suggested that the Eid Al-Fitr’s eve would observe the first phase of a mediated prisoner swap deal between Israel and the Islamist Hamas party, in Gaza.
In his Eid greeting message to both the Palestinian people and the Islamic world, Haniyeh was quoted as saying “Be assured that we will not hold any deal, unless we are totally satisfied with the price for such a deal”.
In mid May, the Saudi Elaph news website reported that a prisoner swap was likely by the eve of the Eid Al-Fitr, and that the first phase would include Israel’s release of tens of juveniles, women prisoners and those with chronic diseases.
In return, Hamas would have to release two Israeli-Arab citizens, held in Gaza since Israel’s last war on the territory in 2014, and give out information on two Israeli soldiers, allegedly dead since that same war.
The Saudi media report suggested that Egypt has been a key mediator, along with some other international players.
Neither Israel, nor Hamas have confirmed those reports.
Several weeks ago, Hamas’s top leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, offered a prisoner swap deal with Israel.
Sinwar’s initiative was reportedly called a humanitarian effort, amidst the spread of the coronavirus, which potentially could negatively affect the lives of around 5,000 Palestinian prisoners, inside Israeli jails.
In 2012, Israel and Hamas engaged in the first prisoner swap deal of its type, following international and Egyptian mediation.
At that time, Hamas released Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, held by Hamas since 2006, and in return Israel released around 1,000 Palestinian prisoners.