In ceasefire talks, Hamas said demanding free movement on Gaza border
Lebanese pro-Hezbollah TV channel Al Mayadeen reported Saturday on the terror group’s alleged demands as it holds indirect talks with Israel for a long-term ceasefire in the Gaza Strip.
Unnamed sources cited by the network said Hamas was committed to maintaining the calm “as long as the occupation adheres to it.”
They said Hamas, in talks being mediated by Egypt, demanded that Israel not enter the border area in eastern Gaza and sought safety for Palestinian farmers near the border. It also wanted freedom of movement for its own forces near the border.
The sources said Hamas also wanted Gaza’s reconstruction sped up following May’s war and previous conflicts.
On the issue of a prisoner exchange, the sources said that “the ball is now in the Israeli court,” while adding that Hamas has clear demands on the issue, though they did not elaborate.
Turkish state media reported on Tuesday that Hamas and Egypt have advanced agreements to strengthen the ceasefire, days after senior Hamas officials met with Egyptian intelligence in Cairo.
The terror group and Egypt saw “progress” in “understandings to stabilize the truce in Gaza, speed up the pace of reconstruction, and efforts to ease the siege,” according to the Anadolu news agency.
In a rare scene, senior Hamas officials, including Gaza chief Yahya Sinwar and Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, gathered in Cairo on Sunday night for the current round of talks with Egyptian intelligence officials, aimed at procuring a long-term ceasefire with Israel.
An official in Hamas told The Times of Israel that some movement in the talks has been “expected,” but added: “These meetings are often just talk. But obligations are later borne out if each side does what it has pledged to do.”
Israel and Hamas have been holding indirect negotiations, moderated by Egypt, on stabilizing the fragile ceasefire since the 11-day battle between the two sides in May. Israel has vowed not to allow a full reconstruction of Gaza without a prisoner swap between the two sides.
Israel leveled higher restrictions on Gaza for months following the 11-day conflict, effectively preventing substantial reconstruction of the battered enclave.
Gaza has been tightly blockaded by both Israel and Egypt for a decade and a half. Jerusalem says that this is necessary to prevent Hamas from amassing arms.
Hamas currently holds two living Israeli civilians as prisoners in Gaza — Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed. The terror group is also holding the bodies of two Israeli soldiers killed during the 2014 Gaza war: Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett discussed the prisoner exchange issue with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi during a recent state visit to Sharm el-Sheikh.
For months, Israeli officials vowed that they would not allow a full reconstruction of Gaza without a prisoner swap. Despite the absence of an agreement, however, Israel has slowly relaxed the additional sanctions following low-level exchanges of fire with Palestinian terrorists in Gaza.