Israel Seeks Immediate Resumption of Talks on Citizens Held in Gaza

YERUSHALAYIM/GAZA (Reuters) -
israel hamas
Yehya Al-Sinwar, Hamas chief in Gaza. (Reuters/Mohammed Salem/File)

Israel called on Tuesday for the immediate resumption of talks on the return of four Israelis held for years in the Gaza Strip after the Palestinian territory’s Hamas rulers said they might be willing to move forward on the issue.

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s office said his national security team “stands ready to take constructive action with the goal of returning the fallen and the missing and of ending the affair, and are calling for an immediate dialogue via mediators.”

Last week, Israel linked any future coronavirus aid to Gaza on progress in efforts to recover two soldiers who went missing in the 2014 war with Hamas and two civilians who separately slipped into the enclave. Hamas holds all four.

The Islamist terror group has never stated whether the two soldiers are dead or alive, but neither has it provided a sign of life, as it has done in a previous similar case.

It has said that returning the four would require negotiating a prisoner swap and would not be done in exchange for humanitarian aid.

In past rounds of talks, Egypt, Qatar and the United Nations have served as intermediaries.

Yehya al-Sinwar, Hamas chief in Gaza, has rejected the linkage to coronavirus aid but on Thursday said he saw “a possible initiative to revive this issue” of the Israelis held in the territory if Israel frees jailed Palestinians.