No swap talks before Israel frees 54 Palestinians: Hamas
Top Hamas leader has dismissed the possibility of new negotiations over prisoner swap with Israeli unless the latter releases dozens of Palestinian prisoners it has rearrested after a previous exchange deal.
Ismail Haniyeh, the prime minister of the Palestinian Islamic resistance movement, Hamas, made the remarks on Friday, adding that Israel has rearrested at least 54 inmates freed in exchange for Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.
During an exchange deal in 2011, Shalit was swapped with over 1,000 Palestinian prisoners. The Israeli soldier had been held in the besieged Gaza Strip for more than five years.
“We have told all the mediators who have mobilized to discuss a new exchange that there won’t be any negotiations before the release of all those Israel detained from among the Shalit deal group,” he said in a speech marking the Eid al-Fitr holiday at the end of the holy Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.
“There will be no talks without their unconditional release,” Haniyeh added.
The comments came after Israel claimed earlier this month that two Israelis are being held in Gaza Strip. But Hamas has not reacted to these allegations.
Israeli authorities claimed that Avraham Mengistu, an Ethiopian Israeli, along with another one are being held in the enclave.
Mengistu is said to have disappeared after he “independently” entered Gaza on September 7, 2014, two weeks after the end of latest Israeli war on Gaza last summer.
The second man, whose name has not been released, is a Bedouin Arab. Israeli officials have not specified how long he has been in Gaza or how he got there.
The Palestinian movement has also acknowledged holding body parts of two Israeli soldiers killed during the 2014 Israeli aggression.
Thousands of Palestinians are currently being held in Israeli prisons. Israeli forces abducted over 2,000 Palestinians last summer alone amid increasing tensions in the occupied West Bank and Gaza.