Ismail Haniyeh
Ismail Haniyeh Reuters

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh told the Al-Arabi television channel in an interview on Friday that "if Israeli leaders are serious about reaching a prisoner exchange deal - then our decision would be to reach a deal."

Haniyeh said that Hamas had been contacted by several brokers and entities about a possible deal.

The Hamas leader added that the group’s Al-Qassam Brigades are holding four captive Israelis and, in response to the interviewer's question whether the equation is at least 250 prisoners in exchange for them, he said he would not talk about prices in the media.

Haniyeh did note, however, that Hamas demands the release of elderly prisoners, those who are sick, children as well as terrorists who were freed in the 2011 Shalit deal and were subsequently rearrested after resuming terror activities. He made clear that Hamas is ready to enter indirect negotiations with Israel to reach a prisoner exchange deal, in a way that ensures the organization will charge "the required prices".

In the interview, Haniyeh also commented on the outbreak of the coronavirus in the Gaza Strip and the coordination between the authorities in Gaza and Israel.

"The coordination is by no means direct and is conducted through mediators such as Egypt, Qatar and the United Nations, which receive the demands on the issue and forward them to Israel," he said.

He noted that the measures in Gaza are insufficient to provide a response to two million residents "especially in the wake of the ongoing blockade imposed by Israel" and therefore made clear that Hamas has appealed to some countries and to the UN to provide additional means for the Strip. He further warned that despite the low number of coronavirus cases in Gaza, it is still facing a challenge on this issue.

The interview with Haniyeh aired hours after Hamas said that its negotiations for a prisoner release deal are still ongoing.

"Our offer is still on the table," the group read. "It is being made for humanitarian reasons, in light of the danger to the health of prisoners in jails during the plague of coronavirus."

"The door is open to any mediator who can get Israel to provide a serious and practical response to this offer."

Last week, Hamas denied that negotiations were taking place with Israel regarding a possible prisoner swap.

Earlier this week, reports said that Hamas may be willing to offer Israel information on four Israelis missing in Gaza, if Israel agrees to the precondition of releasing 250 convicted terrorists.

The four Israelis missing in Gaza are IDF soldiers Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul, who were killed during 2014's Operation Protective Edge, and Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, civilians suffering from mental illness who crossed into Gaza by mistake.

(Arutz Sheva’s North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)

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