A Hamas official this week announced that talks have allegedly taken place with Israel to negotiate a prisoner exchange that would see the release of two Israeli civilians and the remains of two Israel Defense Forces soldiers held in Gaza in exchange for the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners, an unnamed Hamas official said Wednesday.
During an interview with Israel Radio, the unnamed official said Hamas would only move forward with the talks once Israel releases hundreds of Palestinians who were rearrested after they were freed in a 2011 deal brokered with the Gaza-based group to secure the release of kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.
When asked if they would show proof that the two Israeli soldiers were alive, the Hamas official stated that “everything comes at a price” and that negotiations would take place quietly. In addition, Hamas is holding the remains of the IDF soldiers; Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin, who were both killed during Operation Protective Edge conflict in 2014.
Israel has never before negotiated with the Hamas rulers of the Gaza Strip, which is an internationally proscribed terrorist group. Israel has only communicated directly with President Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestinian Authority, which suggests that any prisoner exchange would likely need a third party’s intervention.
The official further stated that Hamas was not looking to renew hostilities with Israel at this time, but is preparing for all scenarios. He said that Hamas’s network of attack and smuggling tunnels are the group’s “weapons”.
Early on Wednesday, it was announced in the Palestinian media that eight Gazans had been injured due to a tunnel collapsing close to Gaza City. Several events like this have occurred in recent months and have resulted in several casualties.
Since April, the IDF has discovered a number of tunnels which extend into Israeli territory.
During the Operation Protective Edge conflict in Gaza in the summer of 2014, Israel uncovered and destroyed 32 cross-border tunnels, through which Hamas planned to infiltrate Israel to carry out terror attacks. Cross-border tunnels were used in the capture of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in 2006.