Hamas Says Window Of Opportunity For Prisoner Swap Exists, But Is Closing

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A Hamas spokesperson on Tuesday accused Israeli leaders of lying to the families of Israelis being held in Gaza, and said that while Israel still has an opportunity to recover the captives and the bodies of fallen soldiers being held by the terrorist organization, that could change.

At a speech marking the 5th anniversary of the 2014 Israel-Gaza war, Hamas military wing spokesman Abu Obeida said, “To the families of the captured soldiers, ask [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu, [former Defense Minister Moshe] Ya’alon and [former IDF Chief of Staff Benny] Gantz where they left your children. Ask Rafi Peretz, the army’s [fomer] chief rabbi, how they mislead you with certain information for cheap political ends.”

Obeida went on to state that “we affirm that there is a real opportunity to resolve the issue of the prisoners and missing persons if the leadership of the enemy is serious in opening and advancing this file and paying the natural price through the clear path that led to the resolution of similar issues in the past.”

The bodies of IDF soldiers Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul are believed to have been in the possession of Hamas since the 2014 war.

Obeida also warned that the window of opportunity could “close completely, as in the case of Ron Arad,” the Israeli pilot presumed dead after going missing in action over Lebanon in a 1986 mission.

Two Israeli civilians who reportedly entered Gaza due to mental instability, Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, are believed to be alive and in Hamas custody. Mengitsu crossed into Gaza in 2014 and al-Sayed the year later.

In his speech, Obeida also accused the Israeli government of failing to even inquire into the well-being of Mengistu, whom he called “the Jew of Ethiopian origins,” in an apparent dig at recent tensions in Israel over the killing of an Ethiopian Israeli teenager by an off-duty police officer last month.

At an official state ceremony commemorating the war, Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin said the government is doing everything it can to return the four Israelis.

“I cannot elaborate here [publicly] on everything we are doing, but we are doing a great deal,” Netanyahu said.

The statement came as Goldin and Shaul’s parents held an alternative ceremony in the parking lot of Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl military cemetery, claiming Netanyahu has failed to make real effort toward repatriating their sons.




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