Israel and the Hamas terror group may be coming closer to an agreement on a prisoner swap, Arab sources told the Hezbollah-affiliated Al Mayadeen channel.
According to the report, there have been difficulties in negotiations, but the Arab sources estimated that the sides will come to an agreement which will be considered a great achievement for Hamas.
The sources also said that Israel has backtracked on its demand to tie the prisoner swap to the negotiations on rebuilding Gaza following the recent war. The change in tune is due to the pressure Hamas placed on Israel in the nightly riots on the border, and the explosive balloons sent over the border, as well as the threat of another round of conflict if Israel does not cave.
Hamas demanded that the prisoner swap be conducted in two stages, the Arab sources added. In the first stage, 700 terrorists would be freed in exchange for the two missing Israelis presumed to still be alive. Israel, the report said, agreed to release 300 terrorists, and Egypt, which is brokering the deal, suggested a compromise of 500 terrorists.
Hamas demanded that in the first stage, the released prisoners include the ill, the women, the minors, members of the legislative council, prisoners who were released and then recaptured, and prisoners who are serving life sentences.
This group would include Ahmad Sada'at, leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP); Marwan Barghouti, senior Fatah terrorist; and Fouad Shoubaki, who is imprisoned for masterminding the purchase of a ship and its cargo of heavy weapons, and attempting to bring them from Iran to the Palestinian Authority.
Israel proposed releasing prisoners over age 65, while Hamas demanded the release of those over age 55. With regards to the prisoners serving life sentences, Israel tried to remove from the list those terrorists whose hands are covered in blood, but Hamas clarified that their release was essential to the deal moving forward.
The Arab sources also said that Israel agreed to conduct the first stage of a prisoner swap as Hamas demanded, in exchange for the release of the two Israelis - both of whom are mentally unwell - who are believed to still be alive. In such a scenario, Israel would also receive information on the fates of the two IDF soldiers, as a step towards negotiations on the second stage of the deal.
According to them, the negotiations and efforts to reach an agreement satisfactory to both sides have continued thanks to Egypt's efforts, but Hamas believes that two issues are holding up the deal: The first issue is the Israeli government's concern that paying too a high price in the prisoner swap may bring down the government itself. The second issue is the efforts of Israeli intelligence to uncover what became of the two Israeli soldiers, so as to be able to use that information in the context of negotiations.