Hamas Leader: There Are 'Chats' with Israel

Hamas leader Ahmad Yousef reveals there are indirect "chats" taking place between his group and Israel under European mediation.

Elad Benari,

Hamas supporters
Hamas supporters
Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash 90

Hamas leader Ahmad Yousef said on Sunday that there were "chats" taking place between his group and Israel under European mediation.

Speaking to the Ma'an news agency, Yousef said that "we await the formation of an Israeli government so things can get more serious. European diplomats and civil society activists come to the Gaza Strip constantly and pose Israeli viewpoints and convey the reaction of the movement through unofficial chats."

For instance, he continued, there are talks on the issues of the ceasefire and the seaport that aim to "find a way out on the issue of the siege by opening a seaport to connect to the outside world."

Yousef denied, however, that there were direct talks between Hamas and Israel taking place.

He also revealed that international parties were mediating on the issue of the remains of Israeli soldiers said to be in Gaza.

"Hamas has a lot of important cards to play, and surprises on the topic of the missing soldiers," he told Ma’an.

Last October, there was talk in Hamas of a swap of Arab terrorists in exchange for the bodies of Givati Brigade officer Hadar Goldin and Golani Brigade combat soldier Oron Shaul, although the deal never materialized. Last week it was reported that Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal had introduced strict conditions for any future transaction with Israel regarding the return of the bodies of the two soldiers.

Yousef, according to Ma’an, said that Hamas informed all parties that no new deal would be made before Israel commits to earlier agreements and releases all those who were re-arrested after the abduction of the three Israeli teenagers last year.

His comments follow recent reports that Hamas and Israel were in talks on a five-year ceasefire agreement in exchange for lifting Israel's transport, import, and export restrictions on Gaza, Hamas and Israeli government sources revealed to the daily. 

The proposals, among other things, would have scaled back Hamas's vows to wage an "armed struggle" and obliterate Israel entirely, and would even include an agreement to a Palestinian state with eastern Jerusalem as its capital, the documents state. 

In December, Hamas officials including Yousef told the British Independent that the group is reviewing its strategy with the changing times and might consider direct negotiations with the Israelis, currently forbidden by the movement’s constitution.




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