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Israel-Hamas contacts advance on prisoner exchange

Contradicting reports have emerged about talks for an Israel-Hamas prisoner-exchange deal after an Egyptian delegation visited Gaza last week.
A masked Hamas militant mans a machine gun as he stands with others in the back of a pickup truck during a celebration of the release of Abdel Halim Badawi (unseen), a Palestinian who was held for 18 years in an Israeli prison after he was convicted of being a member of Hamas' armed wing in 2001, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on October 17, 2019. (Photo by SAID KHATIB / AFP) (Photo by SAID KHATIB/AFP via Getty Images)

The Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar reported this morning that Israel proposed a deal in which Israel would release hundreds of security prisoners in exchange for returning of bodies of two IDF soldiers and releasing Israeli civilians held by the group for five years now. The newspaper claimed that the offer was made to Hamas last week through an Egyptian delegation that visited the Gaza Strip. Jerusalem did not confirm the report, which contradicts reports by the Israeli press and earlier declarations by Israeli officials.

Channel 13 and Ynet reported Dec. 11 that Israel offered Hamas increased assistance with the coronavirus pandemic in exchange for the two IDF soldiers' bodies and the captive Israeli civilians. The reports cited Israeli officials as saying that Jerusalem has identified an opportunity for an exchange deal due to the coronavirus crisis in the Hamas-ruled Strip. Israel is reportedly prepared to assist with Gaza’s health crisis but refuses to release Palestinian prisoners who have committed violence against Israelis.

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