A senior member of the Gaza-based Hamas terrorist group said Thursday that little progress has been made in negotiations for a prisoner swap with Israel.
Hamas is believed to have been holding the remains of two Israeli soldiers since the 2014 Gaza-Israel war and two Israeli civilians. The agreement would purportedly see their return in exchange for the release of Palestinians held in Israeli jails.
Maher Obeid, a member of the group's political wing, told the Hamas-affiliated al-Resalah newspaper that talks to secure a deal have been sporadic. He said that recent reports claiming progress had been made were nothing more than a publicity stunt on behalf of the Israeli authorities.
The German weekly Die Zeit reported on Wednesday that German and Swiss negotiators were mediating talks with Egypt, Israel and Hamas to bring about a prisoner swap.
The report said that the talks were being conducted with significant foreign involvement, including Egyptian mediators as well as German intelligence officers and a Swiss diplomat identified later as Roland Steininger, Switzerland's Special Coordinator for the Peace Process in the Near-East.
The Hamas leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, was released from an Israeli jail in 2011 as part of a prisoner exchange that saw the return of IDF soldier Gilad Shalit after five years in captivity,
According to Israeli media reports, Hamas has been asking for a deal that would include humanitarian assistance to the Gaza Strip to fight the coronavirus pandemic.
Right-wing Transportation Minister Bezalel Smotrich told Ynet that he would oppose any deal that would include the release of "convicted terrorists," and that Israel had other means at its disposal to secure the release of its people.