Hamas proposes exchange of hostages for prisoners; Israel's priority

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The head of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, Yahya Sinwar, affirmed that the Palestinian Islamist movement is willing to carry out an “immediate” exchange of the hostages in its possession for Palestinian prisoners in Israel. “We are willing to agree to an immediate prisoner exchange that includes the release of all Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails for all prisoners captured by the Palestinian resistance” in its October 7 incursion into Israel, Sinwar said in a statement.

Sinwar thus joins the position expressed, also yesterday, by Abu Obeida, the spokesman for the Brigades, Ezzeldin al Qassam, the armed wing of Hamas, although Sinwar's intervention is especially relevant because it is his first public appearance since the current escalation of the conflict in the region. Of the around 220 hostages taken by Hamas, four have been released and dozens are believed to be in the hands not of Hamas, but of Islamic Jihad.

Israel responds

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated yesterday that the country will examine all avenues to free the hostages captured by the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas.

“The authorities will exhaust all options to bring them home,” Netanyahu declared, in response to the Hamas authorities, although he did not report any agreement yet.

Likewise, the premier met yesterday with the families of the hostages. “My heart hurts when I meet with the families of the hostages. I have assured them that we would exhaust all avenues to get their loved ones back home. Their situation is a crime against humanity,” he said.

A spokesman for the Israeli Armed Forces, Daniel Hagari, responded by calling Sinwar's words "psychological terrorism cynically used by Hamas to exert pressure." “Nothing is on the table regarding the kidnapped people. Sinwar can't say anything. He speaks through intermediaries. Hamas does not communicate directly with Israel and we will continue to do everything possible to free the hostages.”

Another Israeli army source assured local media that “Hamas does not want an agreement. You don't have to believe what they say. They want to delay the ground operation. That is why we have decided to expand the operation. “It has been a unanimous decision by the entire government.”

“The working hypothesis is that only when Hamas feels the sword at its throat will it want to reach agreements. They understand that Israel has red lines and that there is no chance of Israel emptying its prisons. That is not going to happen,” she argued. However, “we understand that there is a price we will have to pay, but we are not going to go broke. The families of the hostages understand,” he said.

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