Netanyahu Aide Says Hamas Rejected Prisoner Swap

YERUSHALAYIM - The prime minister’s coordinator for POWs and MIAs, IDF Col. (Res.) Lior Lotan, revealed on Tuesday that Hamas has rejected an Israeli proposal for a prisoner exchange to bring back two missing Israeli citizens and the bodies of IDF soldiers Hadar Goldin, Hy”d, and Oron Shaul, Hy”d.

Lotan disclosed that Israel offered to release 19 Hamas prisoners arrested by IDF forces in 2014 and return 19 bodies of Hamas operatives killed during combat, in a swap.

“It is internationally accepted, even in the worst confrontations, that both sides exchange soldiers and the dead at the end of the conflict,” Lotan said.

“In an unprecedented manner, Hamas responded negatively and placed preconditions calling for the release of other prisoners that are not from the Gaza Strip and are not connected to Operation Protective Edge,” he added.

Israel also explored the possibility of exchanging dozens of Gazans who were arrested after they crossed into Israeli territory illegally in return for the Israeli citizens who are being held by Hamas. The two Israeli civilians who crossed into Gaza — Israeli-Bedouin Hisham al-Sayed and Ethiopian-Israeli Avraham “Abera” Mengistu — are said to suffer from mental illness.

Regarding the civilians who are being detained, he said “the Hamas people know their condition. This isn’t a political or security matter. Israel has utilized all the means to prove that it’s a humanitarian matter.”

Addressing the residents of Gaza, he said: “It’s important that the family of a dead Hamas combatant who personally participated in kidnapping Hadar Goldin and dragging his body to the cave, knows and understands this. It’s important that the family of a Hamas prisoner who could have been coming home now, knows and understands this. It’s important for the residents of Gaza to understand this. Hamas is selling them out. We will do everything we can to bring our boys back. The mission is clear, and we have the means and the experience. We will succeed in this.”

The Goldin family made a statement on Tuesday, saying that “Israel needs to explain to Hamas that there are no free lunches or free deals. The way to bring Oron and Hadar home is by applying serious pressure on Gaza and on Hamas.

“When Hamas understands that it has something to lose in the realms of international relations, rebuilding and developing the Gaza Strip, and its financial situation, it will also return Hadar and Oron,” the family was quoted as saying by Arutz Sheva.