On Oct. 19, Ismail Haniyeh, the Hamas prime minister of the Gaza Strip, delivered a speech to mark the second anniversary of the release of Palestinian prisoners in exchange for the abducted Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. Gaza has faced hard times since then, but as far as Hamas is concerned, the release of those prisoners remains a seminal moment, which deserves to be marked every year. And so, despite the steep price that Palestinians paid during the Israeli military onslaught that followed Shalit’s abduction, the release of 1,027 prisoners in the Shalit deal was a significant achievement for the movement.
On Oct. 30, Israel released 26 Palestinian security prisoners. Their release was in fulfillment of agreements reached in advance of the new round of negotiations with the Palestinians, which began this July. Five of those prisoners returned home to Gaza. While Hamas is resolutely opposed to the ongoing talks with Israel, the movement has also advocated stridently on behalf of Palestinian prisoners and made their release a priority. It would therefore be expected that it would welcome the prisoners returning to Gaza, at the very least. This is especially true considering that each of those prisoners had been sentenced to decades in prison for terrorist attacks against Israelis. In other words, their deeds align well with the Hamas worldview.