Human RightsMiddle EastPalestine

Hamas: ‘israelis’ held in Gaza won’t be released without real swap deal

The Hamas resistance movement says the Israeli captives held in Gaza since Tel Aviv’s 2014 war on the blockaded Palestinian enclave will not be released until a “real” agreement is reached on exchanging prisoners.

“A real prisoner exchange deal is the best way for the release of the captive israelis,” Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem told China’s Xinhua news agency on Monday.

“Otherwise, the Zionist leadership (Israel) will be just selling illusions to the Israeli public,” he added, referring to new Israeli minister for military affairs Benny Gantz’s recent talks with the families of two Israeli civilians held by Hamas as well as two Israeli soldiers who were killed in the 2014 war on Gaza and whose remains the Palestinians are willing to swap with their own prisoners.

Following Gantz’s conversations with the Israeli families, his office announced that the minister had expressed his dedication to bringing the captives and the soldiers’ remains home.

Israel keeps thousands of Palestinians behind bars in dire conditions even despite a new coronavirus outbreak in the occupied territories. Many international rights organizations have been campaigning for the release of the inmates amid the pandemic.

In separate remarks, Qassem denounced the US for attacking the International Criminal Court (ICC) over its plan to open an investigation into Israeli war crimes in the Palestinian territories, calling it an act of “hooliganism” against an international legal tribunal.

Last week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the US would “exact consequences” if the Hague-based court moved ahead with the probe.

It came after the ICC prosecutor decided to consider Palestine as a state with the ability to submit complaints that could trigger probes into Israeli war crimes.

The Hamas spokesman said Washington’s stance is a sign of its continued support for Israel’s crimes against the Palestinians and emboldens the Tel Aviv regime to commit even more such atrocities.

Israeli officials, he emphasized, should be brought before international courts and punished for their crimes.

Last December, ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda announced that a five-year preliminary examination had provided her with “a reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation into the situation in Palestine” as “war crimes have been or are being committed in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem [al-Quds], and the Gaza Strip.”

The ICC’s decision to launch such an investigation has raised alarm among Israeli officials and military personnel, who may face global arrest warrants as a result of the probe.

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