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Hamas Delegation Members in Cairo to Discuss Prisoner Exchange with Israel

hamas iran Ismail Haniyeh
AP/Vahid Salemi
ALI WAKED

TEL AVIV — A Hamas delegation led by the movement’s political leader, Ismail Haniyeh, returned to the Gaza Strip last week after two weeks of discussions with the leadership of Egypt.

The talks focused on the security situation on the border between the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula, with the Egyptians demanding that Hamas increase its activity to prevent the infiltration of jihadists from the Gaza Strip to Sinai to join the ranks of Wilyat Sinai, the Egyptian branch of the Islamic State. IS in the Sinai engaged in an ongoing fight with the Egyptian army.

The discussions also dealt with the issue of reconciliation between Hamas and the Fatah movement.

Another topic raised in these meetings was that of a potential prisoner exchange between Israel and Hamas.

The movement in control of the Gaza Strip continues to hold the bodies of two IDF soldiers since the last round of fighting against Israel in 2014.

But Hamas also holds two Israeli civilians: The first, an Arab Bedouin, and the second and Ethiopian Israeli citizen. Both crossed into Gaza under unclear circumstances, but indications suggest they did so due to mental health issues.

A senior Hamas source told Breitbart Jerusalem that despite the return of the Hamas delegation to the Gaza Strip, two stayed behind in Cairo. Those two are Marwan Issa, deputy to Mohammed Deif, the commander of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the so-called military wing of Hamas, and Rawhi Mushtaha, who was selected as Hamas’ envoy to Egypt.

Issa, according to a senior source in Hamas, is set to discuss the prisoner exchange issue further with the heads of Egyptian intelligence, with Hamas demanding the release of dozens of those previously released from Israeli prisons under the Gilad Shalit deal, but then re-arrested in the last two years.

According to the source, Issa held a series of meetings with Egyptian intelligence, during which they discussed various ways in which to bring about a breakthrough on the issue of a prisoner exchange.

Also addressed in Issa’s meetings with Egyptian intelligence leaders were the preservation of the ceasefire with Israel and the prevention of a future deterioration between Hamas, the Palestinian terrorist organizations in Gaza and the IDF.

According to the source, the issue of the ceasefire with Israel was raised to ensure that the organization would not torpedo American efforts to renew negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority until they have played out in full. Hamas opposes those negotiations.

According to the source, Egypt told Hamas it intends to continue its efforts to position Hamas as a legitimate player on the Palestinian issue in the international community, but that in order to do so, Egypt demanded that Hamas distance itself from violence, show flexibility with Israel, try to distance itself from the Iranian axis and cooperate with the efforts to renew negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

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