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Hamas Chief ‘Optimistic’ About Prospective Prisoner Swap

Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh has expressed a willingness to negotiate an agreement with Israel that could potentially see hundreds of jailed Palestinians freed in exchange for the release of two Israeli civilians held captive in the coastal territory for some five years. Hamas is also believed to be in possession of remains of two Israeli soldiers killed in the Gaza Strip during the 2014 war. “We have four prisoners and we are ready for indirect talks,” Haniyeh said in a television interview over the weekend. “I’m optimistic about the possibility of reaching an agreement with the occupation [Israel] in order to complete a prisoner exchange deal and achieve our goals.” According to reports, the foremost point of contention is Haniyeh’s demand that Israel release all Palestinians re-incarcerated on terrorism charges following their release in a 2011 deal that saw over 1,000 prisoners swapped for captive IDF soldier Gilad Schalit. Notably, Hamas’s current head in the Gaza Strip, Yahya Sinwar, was freed as part of that agreement. Hamas’s leadership is reportedly being propelled to action by deep concerns over a potential outbreak of coronavirus in the densely populated enclave, and has reportedly conditioned any accord on Israel’s transfer of medical equipment.