Israel-Hamas Inmate Swap a 'Matter of Time' But Jewish State Needs to Be Less Stubborn, Says Analyst
04:36 GMT 08.10.2021 (Updated: 09:22 GMT 05.12.2023)
The Islamic group that controls the Strip has called on Israel to release more than a thousand Palestinian prisoners held in jails on charges of terrorism. Israel, for its part, is struggling to accept those demands, fearing that the freed inmates would go back to extremism.
Talks between a senior Hamas delegation and Egyptian intelligence representatives continue in Cairo.
According to reports, the two sides are discussing a number of pressing issues. Those include the so-called Jerusalem file, Israel's activity in the city and ways to curb it; the reconstruction of Gaza, which has been partially destroyed in the recent round of hostilities; and Egyptian efforts to mediate and unite the Palestinians.
An Egyptian source who is involved in the negotiations has told Sputnik that the talks also revolve around a potential long-lasting truce between Israel and Hamas.
Although the Islamic group that controls the Gaza Strip has denied it (probably to avoid leaving the impression that it is giving concessions to Israel), the Egyptian official reassures that the talks are ongoing, but "things are still up in the air, with no breakthrough achieved".
14 September 2021, 06:46 GMT
Reportedly, Hamas has green-lit a steady truce with Israel in exchange for the latter lifting its 15 year-long blockade of the Strip, which was imposed following the capture of the enclave by the militants from the terrorist group.
Hussam al-Dajani, a Palestinian political expert affiliated with the Islamic group, who has been following the recent developments, says that the lifting of the blockade, if it ever happens, would be a major "Hamas achievement".
"Such a move would end Gaza's isolation, it would improve the lives of the Palestinians and potentially pave the way for an independent Palestinian state".
Prisoners' Swap on the Horizon?
The lifting of the blockade is far from being the only condition that the Hamas officials are putting forward in exchange for a long-lasting quiet. They also demand that Israel ease its restrictions on the entry of construction materials into the enclave, they're calling on the Jewish state to let more Palestinian workers into Israeli territories, and they're urging that the continued reconstruction of Gaza, especially as many residential units, roads and government buildings were destroyed.
Previously, Israel has conditioned its involvement in the reconstruction efforts, saying it would only be willing to invest money if Hamas released two civilians and returns the bodies of two IDF soldiers killed during operation Protective Edge in 2014.
Recently, it has been reported that Israel has backed down from its previous demands but the negotiations around the prisoners' swap deal continue.
So far, Israel and Hamas have been struggling to reach an agreement on that front. Hamas is demanding the release of more than a thousand Palestinian prisoners, held in Israeli jails on charges of terrorism. They are also likely to urge the Jewish state to free the six Palestinian inmates, who escaped from the Gilboa prison in early September, a move that turned them into national heroes.
Israel, for its part, objects to those demands, especially given the fact that the previous prisoners' swap -- which took place in 2011 following the release of the IDF soldier Gilad Shalit -- resulted in 15 percent of the freed inmates returning to terrorism activity.
"The Israeli intransigence and stubbornness prevents the deal from being implemented. Israel is trying to gain time to drain Hamas’ patience and force it to back down from its initial demands but I can guarantee you that it will be impossible".
Yet, al-Dajani is certain that a deal will eventually be brokered.
"Egypt will do its best to make headway in this file, which is considered to be the most complicated issue in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The fact that Hamas' leader Yehiya Sinwar is attending the talks is an indication that a prisoners' swap is on the table. And I think, it is only a matter of time, until an official declaration is issued."