Ramallah – An Israeli official said on Monday that Tel Aviv was ready to alleviate the conditions of its prisoners belonging to Hamas movement should negotiations on a hostage swap deal are launched.
The Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth said that Hamas was reportedly aiming to secure the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners held in Israel in exchange for the return of the bodies of two Israeli soldiers and two Israeli citizens believed to be captive in the Gaza Strip.
The daily said that the deal would apparently be along the lines of the 2011 prisoner exchange for captured soldier Gilad Shalit.
“Hamas wants a Shalit 2 deal, with the release of hundreds of prisoners,” the paper quoted an unnamed senior Israeli official as saying.
In an article issued on March 28, Asharq al-Awsat newspaper said that Hamas has set two conditions for a possible hostage exchange with Israel. In addition to Shalit 2 deal, Hamas refused to link the swap deal with any other file.
In a direct reference to Asharq al-Awsat article, the Israeli daily said: “Asharq al-Awsat at the time quoted a source in the Gaza-based Islamist group as saying that though there were currently no direct negotiations between Hamas and Israel, international mediators were trying to broker a prisoner swap.”
Yedioth Ahronoth said that “while Israel has been seeking — through foreign intermediaries — to initiate negotiations for the return of the civilians and of the soldiers’ bodies, it is not willing to give anything away just to bring Hamas to the negotiating table”.
The newspaper added that Israel and Hamas did not officially maintain direct contact, and any deal would have to be mediated by international parties.
The Israeli official was quoted by the Hebrew daily as saying that Israel would ease the conditions of its prisoners if Hamas agrees to hold negotiations over the swap deal.
Well-informed sources told Asharq al-Awsat last March that no concrete negotiations were launched between Israel and Hamas over a swap deal, with the exception of foreign mediation to set the basis for a possible prisoners’ exchange.