Hamas chief confirms Israel prisoner swap negotiations, demands Saudi Arabia release Palestinian detainees

Hamas chief confirms Israel prisoner swap negotiations, demands Saudi Arabia release Palestinian detainees
Ismail Haniyeh has confirmed talks with Israel for a prisoner swap via Egypt and has urged Saudi Arabia to release Palestinian detainees in the kingdom.
3 min read
14 May, 2020
Ismail Haniyeh is Hamas' chief [Getty]

Hamas have confirmed that they are in indirect talks to conduct a prisoner swap deal with Israel, and have called on Saudi Arabia to release Palestinian detainees.

In an interview with Al Jazeera, Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh confirmed that the Palestinian group had started indirect negotiations with Israel to complete the prisoner exchange deal, through Egyptian mediation.

"Our arm is long and we are willing to stretch for a deal with the Israeli occupation to bring back our prisoners," he said, adding that Israel is not being serious enough.

"The occupation is currently being unserious with the negotiations, even with current mediation, which is stalling the deal from actually taking place," he said.

Both Hamas and Israel are seeking to finalise a deal, out of fears that coronavirus could spread rapidly in prisons and exasperate the pandemic.

Read also: Time running out for Hamas-Israel prisoner swap deal as annexation looms

Israel has demanded that Hamas accept its conditions for a prisoner swap deal, which would then be implemented gradually over several months, to ensure that the Palestinian factions involved to not stage any kind of escalation such as rocket strikes, according to the sources.

Several reported attempts to reach a prisoner exchange deal between Israel and the Palestinians have failed in recent years.

Meanwhile, Haniyeh called on Saudi Arabia to release Palestinian prisoners that it has taken in under accusations that they are supporters of Hamas.

The arrests intensified in 2019 and there has been no official comment from the Saudi government on either the arrests or the trials.

"We all hope that the brothers in Saudi Arabia will reconsider arresting the Palestinians they have, as we are concerned with sustaining good relations with all Arab countries."

"We call on King Salman to release the Palestinian detainees in Saudi Arabia," he added, directly addressing Saudi Arabia's King.

Read also: Palestinian movement Hamas demands release of senior official detained in Saudi Arabia

He emphasized that these detainees were only conducting charitable activities and the indictments against them were "unfortunate, painful and unexpected."

Haniyeh also stressed rejected the surge in Arab normalization with Israel, which Saudi Arabia has partaken, but added emphasis Sudan, saying "to our brothers in Sudan, do not make your country a gateway to Israeli normalisation."

Sudan is the latest Arab country to take steps to normalise relations with Israel.

Ties between Hamas and Saudi Arabia have been cold in recent years.

Hamas have tried to maintain a balanced relationship with Saudi Arabia despite the friction between their policies on a host of regional and international issues. 

Yet relations worsened since the rise to power of Mohammed bin Salman, now crown prince, who has taken unprecedented moves to normalise relations with Israel, the existence of which Hamas refuses to recognise.

The Palestinian movement relies more on Saudi regional rival Iran for funds, weapons and expertise, along with Turkey and Qatar for their political wing's diplomatic support.

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