Hamas has confirmed the recent reports of a possible prisoner exchange with Israel. Earlier today Az-Aadin al Qassam, the movement’s military wing told Al Jazeera that it had rejected an Israeli proposal, which it described “as way below our minimal requirements”.
Hamas has one Israeli captive, Abre Mengistu, a developmentally challenged youth who accidentally crossed into Gaza approximately two years ago. In addition, it also holds the bodies of Lt. Hadar Goldin and Staff Sgt. Oron Shaul, two Israeli soldiers killed during Operation Protective Edge.
The Hamas sources say Israel was not willing to release any prisoners for bodies, and offered Hamas one prisoner in exchange for Mengistu. The prisoner is a brother of a senior Hamas official.
Hamas is demanding Israel release the 60 prisoners it had released in exchange for Gilad Shalit, and then subsequently rearrested.
Liran Weiss, the Goldin’s family spokesperson gave a statement on behalf of the family. “After two and half years of disappointments we have learned not to be impressed by empty talk, rumors and headlines.
“We now understand that there is an opportunity to return Hadar and Oron to Israel, and we know Prime Minister Netanyahu knows exactly what we’re talking about.
“We continue to demand the Israeli government to run the full range of tools at its disposal to put pressure on Hamas, since only such pressure will lead to results.”
He said the family was not demanding Israel return prisoners, but take steps such as tightening the blockade of Gaza, withdrawing all privileges from Hamas prisoners and worsening the conditions in which they are held, in order to expedite Hadar’s return by pressuring Hamas into accepting a deal the government regards as acceptable.
Moshe Shaul, who represents the Shaul family said: “For two years Oron has been held by kidnappers from Hamas…Oron was sent by the state on a mission to protect the homeland, and the state and the IDF have a duty to ensure he returns home…The family who recently lost their father Herzl Shaul, and expects the leaders of the state and army commanders to act in any way to ensure Oron’s return.”
He added that the family regards this as a humanitarian issue. “Israel is constantly making humanitarian gestures, allowing 1,000 trucks to enter Gaza every day to ensure the population has adequate supplies of basic products, whereas Hamas has made zero humanitarian gestures since taking over the Gaza Strip.”
He said the family was in touch with Lior Lotan, who is the point person in the prime minister’s office for all issues related to prisoners, but so far none of the efforts made have yielded any results.
He called on the prime minister to use Gaza’s dependence on Israel for basic supplies as leverage to get results.
Abre Mengistu’s family said they prefer not to comment.
So far no comment has been received from the prime minister’s office.
Tazpit Press Service – By Yoni Ariel/TPS