Hamas’s top leader in Gaza is calling for negotiations on a potential prisoner swap with Israel as Egypt is working to solidify a truce between Israel and Hamas following the cease-fire earlier this month that ended 11 days of some of the worst fighting seen between the two in years.
Yehiyeh Sinwar told reporters after a meeting with Egyptian intelligence chief Abbas Kamel that “there is a real chance to make progress” on an agreement that would include the release of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel in exchange for two Israeli citizens and the remains of two Israeli soldiers killed in the 2014 war in the region, according to The Associated Press.
“Today, by the grace of Allah, after this victory of May 2021, our Palestinian cause is making tangible and clear progress,” Sinwar added.
Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz on Monday also signaled a willingness to agree to the prisoner swap, arguing that this must be completed before any further progress is made on peace negotiations.
“We are willing to help with fixing the area, rebuilding it, construction, etc. But it’s conditioned with the return of our boys back home, the abducted soldiers,” Gantz said, the AP reported.
However, Gantz said that any violations of the May 21 cease-fire by Hamas, a U.S.-designated terrorist organization, would be responded to with force.
The defense minister said, “We will brutally retaliate, but we will do it in our own time and will not accept the previous reality to show itself again.”
The AP reported that another senior Hamas official, Khalil al-Haya, told reporters Monday that it was necessary for Israel to halt its “aggression” if the U.S. ally wants to prevent further violence.
The deadly fighting earlier this month between the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and Hamas was spurred by weeks of protests and tensions over planned evictions of Palestinian families in the nearby Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood and other actions by the Israeli government.
More than 250 people were killed in the fighting as Hamas fired more than 4,000 rockets toward Israel cities and the IDF struck roughly 1,000 targets in Gaza.
Kamel’s visit to Gaza on Monday comes a day after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin NetanyahuBenjamin (Bibi) NetanyahuMORE hosted the Egyptian intelligence chief in Jerusalem to discuss a potential prisoner exchange.
Meanwhile, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukry welcomed his Israeli counterpart, Gabi Ashkenazi, in Cairo to discuss building on the Egypt-negotiated cease-fire between Israel and Hamas.
Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Ahmed Hafez said that Shukry during the meeting called for relaunching “serious and constructive” negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians following more than a decade of stalled talks.