Report: Hamas Willing to Trade Information on Israeli MIAs

A still image taken from a video released by the Hamas media office shows what Hamas says is captured Israeli Hisham al-Sayyed in an undisclosed location, last week. (Hamas Media Office/Handout via REUTERS)

Hamas is willing to “trade information” on the fates of two Israeli soldiers killed during the 2014 Gaza conflict in exchange for the release of various terrorist operatives, Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar reported on Monday.

Hamas is holding two Israelis – Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed – captive, in addition to the remains of IDF Lt. Hadar Goldin and Staff Sgt. Oron Shaul, Hy”d, killed in two separate battles during Operation Protective Edge.

According to the report in the Hezbollah-affiliated outlet, the political shift in Israel and Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid’s appointment as prime minister has “sparked optimism” in Gaza over a potential prisoner exchange between Hamas and Israel.

Citing a top Hamas official, Al-Akhbar claimed that Gaza’s rulers have relayed an offer to Israel in which they would provide it with “credible information” on Goldin and Shaul in exchange for the release of dozens of female terrorists, minors in administrative detention, and security prisoners rearrested in the wake of the 2011 prisoner swamp.

Over a decade ago, Israel agreed to set 1,027 Palestinian security prisoners free to secure the release of IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, who was abducted by the terrorist group in 2006 in a cross-border raid.

Hamas has made such offers before and Israel has so far refused, as its policy is not to negotiate with terrorists.

“The occupation government refuses to give the families of the abducted soldiers a glimmer of hope and is lying to them that their sons were killed. If the occupation government is convinced that they were indeed killed, it must agree to a deal to prove its claims,” the Hamas official argued.

The report came on the heels of an unusual move by Hamas, which last week released a video seeking to prove that the medical condition of one of the Israeli captives had significantly deteriorated.

The 39-second video shows Hisham al-Sayed lying in a bed with an oxygen mask on his face and ends with a close-up of what appeared to be an Israeli ID card bearing his name.

The move appeared to be a Hamas bid to pressure Israel for a prisoner swap as Egyptian-mediated negotiations between the sides on such a deal have lagged.

An Israeli analysis of the video concluded that it was most likely shot in late June.

Then-Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said releasing a video of a sick man was a “reprehensible and desperate” act and that Hamas was violating international conventions by holding a civilian who he said was suffering from a mental disorder.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said last week that the Izzadin al-Qassam Brigades – the group’s military wing – was holding four Israeli prisoners and that “Israel is not convinced that it will go through with a prisoner exchange. … But we are thinking of every direction to bring about the release of Palestinian prisoners. It is a debt we must repay, no matter what we have to sacrifice,” he said.

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