Hamas: No link between prisoner swap and Gaza ceasefire, reconstruction
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Hamas: No link between prisoner swap and Gaza ceasefire, reconstruction

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Hamas leaders on Monday told the head of Egypt’s General Intelligence Service (GIS) Abbas Kamel that they are opposed to linking the issue of a prisoner exchange with Israel to the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip and the ceasefire that was reached two weeks ago with Israel.Palestinian sources claimed last weekend that the Egyptians have made progress in their mediation efforts to reach a new prisoner swap between Hamas and Israel. The sources said that Kamel’s visit to Israel, Ramallah and the Gaza Strip shows that the Egyptians have decided to throw their full weight behind the efforts to strike a prisoner exchange deal and reach a long-term truce between Hamas and Israel.

Hamas is holding two Israeli civilians, Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, who entered the Gaza Strip on their own, and the bodies of IDF soldiers Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul, who were killed in the 2014 Israel-Hamas war.

Kamel arrived in the Gaza Strip through the Erez border crossing with Israel after holding talks with Israeli and Palestinian Authority officials on Sunday. It was his first visit to the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip since his appointment as GIS chief in 2018.

Shortly after entering the Gaza Strip, Kamel met with Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar and other representatives of the terrorist group.

The Egyptian intelligence chief was also scheduled to meet with leaders of other Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip to discuss ways of maintaining the current ceasefire with Israel, a possible prisoner exchange deal and the reconstruction efforts.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has pledged $500 million to contribute to the reconstruction effort.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday told Kamel that any plan concerning the Gaza Strip must be coordinated in advance with the Ramallah-based Palestinian government.

“We talked about the need to accelerate the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip and we welcome all efforts in this regard,” said Khalil al-Hayya, a senior Hamas official in the Gaza Strip. “The prisoner exchange issue is an independent file, and we do not accept linking it to other files, such as the reconstruction. The Egyptians understand our stance.”

Hayya said that indirect negotiations between Israel and Hamas to reach a prisoner swap stopped when the recent fighting broke out in early May. “The occupation is not serious,” he said, referring to efforts to reach a prisoner exchange deal. “If it is serious, we can proceed with it quickly.”

Hayya said that the Hamas officials stressed during the meeting with Kamel the need to completely lift the “siege” imposed on the Gaza Strip. The two sides, Hayya added, also discussed ways of achieving Palestinian national unity, reference to the ongoing power struggle between Hamas and Abbas’s ruling Fatah faction.

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