Hamas ready to negotiate prisoner exchange deal
The head of the Palestinian movement Hamas said on Tuesday it was ready to negotiate with Israel to trade two Israeli captives and the bodies of two soldiers being held.
"We in Hamas are ready to start negotiations to achieve a deal through a third party mediator," Ismail Haniya said in a speech marking the Palestinians' annual Prisoners' Day.
While the movement had previously hinted at replicating the 2011 deal that saw Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit freed in exchange for over a thousand Palestinians in Israeli jails.
Haniya's comments are the most direct yet to come from the Gaza-based group.
Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin, two Israeli soldiers, are believed to have been killed in the 2014 war against Gaza and their remains held by Hamas. Another two Israeli civilians, said to be mentally unstable, are also believed to have entered Gaza and are being held by Hamas.
Little progress has been made despite frequent talks about a potential deal happening.
According to the Palestinian Prisoners’ Club, there are around 6,500 Palestinians currently in Israeli jails.
Hundreds of Palestinians in Israeli prisons launched a hunger strike on Tuesday to mark Palestinian Prisoners Day.
Imprisoned Palestinian Marwan Barghouti is leading the new strike, a year after he led the largest prisoners' hunger strike in Palestinian history. Last year's strike began with 1,500 participants with those partaking ingesting only water and salt.
Palestinian organisations and supporters used online platforms and various hashtags to call for the release of Palestinian political detainees, with many focusing on Israel's treatment of Palestinian children.
On Tuesday, Palestinians marched in solidarity with prisoners with across the West Bank and Gaza.
As of March 1, 2018 there are 6,050 Palestinian political prisoners being held in Israeli prisons, with 427 being held as administrative detainees. Up to 356 of the prisoners are children; 62 female prisoners; and seven members of the Palestinian Legislative Council, according to Addameer.