Germany has been brokering an exchange deal between Israel and Hamas, and in recent weeks has proposed a concrete arrangement, the London-based Arabic language Al-Hayat newspaper said Thursday. In the deal, Israel would release Hamas terrorists it is holding in prison, in exchange for the remains of IDF soldiers Hadar Goldin, Hy”d, and Oron Shaul, Hy”d, along with Israelis Avraham Mengistu and Hisham a-Sayad.
According to the report, Germany has been trying to broker a deal for the past three years – almost since the end of Operation Protective Edge, when both Goldin and Shaul went missing in a battle along the Gaza border. The report said that two German emissaries recently visited Gaza to present the deal to Hamas leaders, who agreed to have Germany broker the arrangement. The report said that while the deal is not yet complete, both Hamas and Israel are prepared to allow the Germans to propose an arrangement. Germany also played an active role in the negotiations for the release of kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit.
The negotiations had been top-secret – until last month, the report said, when a diplomatic incident at the Gaza border laid bare Germany’s involvement in the matter. A German vehicle attempting to leave Gaza and travel to Ramallah via Israel was detained for several hours by security officials, who insisted on inspecting the vehicle for weapons. When the Germans protested, the officials said that a recent incident in which a French diplomat was caught smuggling weapons from Gaza into Israel was behind the new requirement to inspect diplomatic vehicles coming out of Gaza.
The vehicle remained in Gaza overnight, while German officials pressured Israel to allow the vehicle to pass through without an inspection. Israel relented, but after the incident, Germany ordered its diplomats not to try and enter Israel from Gaza in diplomatic vehicles. It was based on that incident that word got out about Germany’s role in the negotiations, the report added.