Egyptian intelligence delegation arrives in Gaza to mediate Hamas-Israel prisoner exchange
A senior Egyptian intelligence delegation arrived in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday to negotiate with Hamas regarding a potential prisoner swap with Israel, Israeli state TV channel Kan 11 has reported.
The Egyptian delegation was headed by Mahmoud Abdel Khaleq, the official responsible for Palestinian affairs at Egypt’s General Intelligence Directorate.
The delegation arrived in the besieged Palestinian territory from Israel, via the Erez Crossing, after holding talks with Israeli officials.
Kan 11 said that the delegation aimed to “close the gap” in the positions between Israel and Hamas regarding a prisoner exchange.
Hamas currently holds two Israelis, Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, in detention. They entered the Gaza Strip of their own accord in 2014 and 2015 respectively.
The Palestinian Islamist group, which took control of the Gaza Strip in 2007, also holds two Israeli soldiers captured during the 2014 Israeli assault on Gaza.
Hamas claims they are still alive but Israel says that they were killed and Hamas is holding on to their remains.
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Hamas has made the release of the detainees conditional on Israel releasing Palestinian prisoners.
Israel is currently holding more than 4,000 Palestinians, including 140 children, in detention. Some Palestinians are in “administrative detention” without charge.
It has also recently arrested Hamas leaders in the West Bank in the run-up to Palestinian elections scheduled for May 22.
Hamas is demanding that Israel release hundreds of Palestinian prisoners in exchange for the release of the four detainees.
Some of the Palestinian prisoners Hamas wants to be released have been convicted of killing or injuring Israelis and Israel is refusing to release them.
However, despite the disagreement between the two sides, Kan 11 reported that “good preliminary steps” had been taken in the Egyptian-mediated negotiations.
In 2011, Hamas released Israeli soldier Gilad Shilat in return for the freeing of 1,000 Palestinian prisoners by Israel.
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