JERUSALEM – The United Nations’ Middle East envoy Nikolay Mladenov met with Hamas officials during a visit to the Gaza Strip on Monday, Breitbart Jerusalem has learned from sources with inside knowledge of the meeting.
The confab breaks with a longstanding cold shoulder policy toward Gaza’s Islamic government.
Sources in Hamas confirmed that Mladenov met with Khalil el-Hayeh and Ziad al-Zaza, both members of Hamas’ political bureau; as well as Ghazi Hamad, who oversees Hamas’ foreign relations committee. The meeting was also confirmed by Middle Eastern diplomats familiar with the matter.
Asked for comment on the report, Farhan Haq, deputy UN spokesman, did not deny the meeting took place.
“The office of the UN Special Coordinator, UNSCO, is working with the Palestinian Government and all relevant interlocutors on how to reunite Gaza and the West Bank under the single legitimate Palestinian Authority,” Haq told Breitbart Jerusalem.
“Thousands of Gaza public sector employees need to have their salaries paid and the crossings to Gaza must be returned to the control of the Palestinian Authority. This would be a very important step towards lifting the closures.”
According to Hamas sources, Mladenov discussed the possibility of a cease-fire with Israel and the status of the bodies of Israeli soldiers held by Hamas.
Mladenov was scheduled to meet Gaza-based UN representatives as well as border officers affiliated with the Palestinian Authority, but like his predecessor Robert Serry, chose to meet with Hamas officials as well. Serry faced accusations from Israel’s Foreign Ministry in 2014 that he worked from within the UN to transfer $20 million in funds from Qatar to Hamas in order to pay salaries in the Gaza Strip.
A Hamas source told Breitbart Jerusalem that the movement is ready, under certain conditions, to extend its cease-fire with Israel by five years in exchange for lifting the blockade of the Strip, opening of border crossings to building material, and a maritime route. During that period, Hamas would refrain from digging underground tunnels near the border.
The source said that Hamas told Mladenov that they are prepared to discuss the return of the bodies of two Israel Defense Forces soldiers, Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul, that were captured during 2014’s Operation Protective Edge, as well as Ethiopian-Israeli civilian Avraham Mangisto. The transfers, the Hamas source said, would be in exchange for the release of prisoners Israel re-arrested after their release in 2011 as part of the deal to free kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.
A spokesperson for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was not immediately available to comment. However, sources within Netanyahu’s office said any UN-Hamas meeting was not in any way sanctioned by Israel.
Hamas official Husam Badran declined to comment on the matter.
“We’ve made clear in the past that there will be no discussion on the captive soldiers unless the conditions of the 2011 exchange deal are met,” he said. “Our position is very clear: We will not negotiate until all those who were released in 2011 and re-arrested are free.”