Hamas delegation in Egypt 'for Israel prisoner swap talks'
A military delegation from Hamas is in Cairo to negotiate a prisoner exchange with Israel, Egyptian sources have told The New Arab’s Arabic-language service.
The head of Hamas's political bureau, Ismail Haniyeh, arrived in Cairo on Wednesday for talks with the rival Palestinian Fatah movement amid reports that an Israeli security delegation was also present in the Egyptian capital.
Sources said that the Hamas military delegation is headed by Marwan Issa, the chief of staff of the Izzedin Al-Qassam Brigades, the movement's armed wing.
They added that Issa’s delegation would negotiate indirectly with the Israeli security delegation.
Hamas currently holds two Israelis in detention - Avera Mengistu, who is of Ethiopian origin, and Hisham Al-Sayed, a Palestinian citizen of Israel. Both entered the Gaza Strip of their own accord in 2014 and 2015 respectively.
Hamas also holds two Israeli soldiers and says they are still alive although Israel claims they are dead and demands the return of their remains.
The movement seeks to exchange them for hundreds of the over 4,000 Palestinian prisoners detained by Israel.
On Sunday Al-Jazeera broadcast what it said was a recording of the voice of one of the Israeli detainees held by Hamas.
The Ethiopian accent of the voice suggested it was Avera Mengistu but Mengistu’s mother denied this. However, Mengistu’s father later said that he thought the voice was his son's
The sources who spoke to The New Arab’s Arabic-language service said that the recording of the alleged Israeli detainee's voice was requested by Israel through Egypt after the latter spent time convincing the Izzedin Al-Qassam Brigades to agree to the request.
The Qassam Brigades had originally demanded that Israel agree to free Palestinian prisoners who had been released in a 2011 Israel-Hamas prisoner exchange and then re-arrested.
Israel launched a deadly 11-day assault on the Gaza Strip on May 10, killing 254 Palestinians, including 66 children, in the besieged Palestinian enclave before a ceasefire was agreed.
Cairo has been involved in negotiations to ensure the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas turns into a long-term truce. Hamas, however, says that it refuses to link the ceasefire to the prisoner exchange issue.
Egyptian sources said Hamas was demanding Israel allow building materials into Gaza so that facilities belonging to Palestinian armed factions be repaired as part of a prisoner exchange deal.