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‘Currently No Chance’ Of Prisoner Swap With Israel – Hamas Official

But an informed source told AFP that Qatar is spearheading efforts to negotiate an exchange of prisoners between Israel and Hamas following the Palestinian group's shock attack over the Gaza border.


Hamas Arab relations chief Khalil al-Hayya (right) and Abdulaziz al-Minawi, senior official of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement, hold a press conference during a visit to Damascus on Oct. 19.
Hamas Arab relations chief Khalil al-Hayya (right) and Abdulaziz al-Minawi, senior official of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement, hold a press conference during a visit to Damascus on Oct. 19. Photo: Louai Beshara/AFP

 

Palestinian Islamist group Hamas is not open to negotiating a prisoner exchange with Israel during hostilities, a member of the militants’ political office in Doha said Monday.

Potential talks on the fate of as many as 150 individuals held by Hamas gained greater urgency as the group threatened to start executing its hostages if Israel carried out air strikes in the Gaza Strip without prior warning to residents.

But an informed source told AFP that Qatar is spearheading efforts to negotiate an exchange of prisoners between Israel and Hamas following the Palestinian group’s shock attack over the Gaza border.

Discussions on the release of dozens of people — kidnapped during the Islamist group’s advance into southern Israel on Saturday — had made “some headway,” the source who is briefed on the negotiations said on condition of anonymity, without providing additional details.

Hamas official Hossam Badran had earlier told AFP: “The military operation is still continuing… therefore there is currently no chance for negotiation on the issue of prisoners or anything else.”

“Our mission now is to make every effort to prevent the occupation from continuing to commit massacres against our people in Gaza, which directly target civilian homes,” he added from Doha.

At least 800 people have been killed in Israel since the surprise offensive.

On the Gaza side, at least 687 people have been killed after Israel launched air strikes on the Palestinian enclave in response.

Qatar has hosted a political office for Hamas for over a decade and has been one of the group’s principal backers.

Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh issued a video message from Qatar on Saturday, broadcast on the militants’ Al-Aqsa television channel, saying his group was on the “verge of a great victory” and demanding the release of Palestinian prisoners.

On Sunday, Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani held a call with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, saying Qatar was “making all its diplomatic efforts with various concerned parties” to de-escalate the conflict.