Khalil al-Hayya
Khalil al-Hayya Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash 90

A senior Hamas official on Thursday welcomed Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s readiness to mediate between Hamas and Israel in order to establish a new prisoner exchange deal.

Speaking to Channel 2’s Ilana Dayan earlier this week, Erdogan said that the names of missing IDF soldiers Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul, whose bodies are being held by Hamas in Gaza, did not come up during reconciliation talks with Israel.

Erdogan said he would be willing to mediate between Israel and Hamas on the issue, but stressed Israel would have to release Palestinian Arab terrorist prisoners as part of the deal.

Hamas official Khalil al-Hayya, speaking with the Arabic-language Al-Aqsa channel and quoted by the Ma’an news agency, said that Israeli authorities must commit to release terrorists who were released in the Shalit deal in 2011 and then rearrested.

As part of the Shalit deal, Israel released 1,027 terrorists in exchange for Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. However, many of them have since been rearrested after it was determined they had resumed terrorist-related activities.

Hamas has repeatedly insisted that Israel must release all prisoners who were freed as part of the deal but have since been rearrested, before starting talks in a new prisoner swap deal.

Al-Hayya said that he was highly appreciative of Erdogan’s announcement of his willingness to mediate between Hamas and Israeli authorities.

He also added that there were no plans between Hamas and Israel yet to formulate a new prisoner exchange deal, but highlighted that it was “not in Israel’s best interests” to continue to postpone the development of a prisoner exchange agreement.

In addition to Goldin and Shaul, Hamas is also holding Avraham (Avera) Mengistu, an Ethiopian Jew who was deeply depressed and suffering from mental health problems when he wandered unarmed across the border to Gaza.

Israel's Defense Ministry has determined that Mengistu was captured by Hamas after managing to cross the border, but the terrorist organization holding de facto rule over Gaza has provided no information about his whereabouts or condition.

Hamas did acknowledge last April that Mengistu was in Gaza but stopped short of confirming it was hold him, saying only Israel would have to “pay the price” to secure his release, as well as the release of soldiers Goldin and Shaul, and a Bedouin who went missing in Gaza as well.

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