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Report: Prisoner Exchange Deal & Ceasefire With Hamas to Take Place at the End of August

The four Israeli prisoners and missing persons held by Hamas will be discussed as part of a ceasefire agreement to be signed by the end of August, a Hamas source told the Turkish news agency Anadolu. According to the report, the Egyptian-brokered agreement, working with UN Mideast Envoy Nikolai Mladenov, will include an experimental cease-fire for two weeks, leading to a broader ceasefire agreement for an additional five years.

The Arab newspaper Al-Hayat reported that Hamas representatives had informed Egypt that the organization would not release information about the soldiers before Israel released some 65 prisoners released in the Shalit deal and since rearrested.

As part of the broader agreement, the Rafiach Crossing between Egypt and Gaza will be opened regularly. According to the same source, Israel will significantly reduce the restrictions on the transfer of goods at the Kerem Shalom crossing. In addition, the agreement will encourage the establishment of a seaport and an airport to serve Palestinians in the Sinai Peninsula.

In contrast to previous reports, the source notes that the broader agreement will also include the release of the remains of IDF Lt. Hadar Goldin HY”D and Staff-Sergeant Oron Shaul HY”D, as well as citizens Avra (Avraham) Mengistu and Hisham Sha’ban a-Sayyid, a member of Israel’s Bedouin community.

Ministers of the Political-Security Cabinet are expected to discuss the situation in Gaza again on Thursday. This is the second discussion of the cabinet ministers on the subject, in light of the contacts being led by Egypt and Mladenov to bring about an arrangement in Gaza. In the previous meeting held on Sunday, the ministers discussed the details of the talks and presented an assessment that the chances of long-term arrangements are slim due to the disagreements between Hamas and the PA (Palestine Authority).

According to a Walla News report, a political source clarified this week that at this stage the cabinet discussed a “limited arrangement,” that is, a complete cessation of kite terrorism and demonstrations on the Gaza border fence in return for the opening of the Kerem Shalom crossing for the passage of goods and the expansion of the fishing area. The source stressed that additional and long-term relief for the population in Gaza is contingent upon the return of the bodies of the POWs and MIAs. This is despite the fact that Palestinian reports on the outline indicate that the issue of POWs and MIAs will be postponed to a later stage.

At the same time, Ismail Haniyeh, head of Hamas’ political bureau in Damascus, said that a Hamas delegation would return to Cairo to present its positions on the border crossings. Haniyeh’s statement came at the end of a round of meetings held by the organization’s leaders with the Palestinian factions in Gaza. According to Haniyeh, the Hamas delegation will present to Egypt the decisions that were taken on issues related to the arrangement, stressing that they are not only about Hamas but the entire Palestinian people.

Earlier, United Nations envoy to the Middle East Nicolai Mladenov met with Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed Abd al-Rahman al-Thani in Doha and discussed with him the efforts to arrange a deal between Israel and Hamas. Mladenov tweeted that the meeting was “very positive…We continue to reach all stakeholders in the region to ease tension in Gaza, mobilize humanitarian support, and promote Palestinian reconciliation. Qatar has always supported the efforts of the UN.”

The Shalit prisoner exchange led to the release of IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, who was held in Hamas captivity for over five years. The agreement was signed in 2011, leading to the release of 1,027 terrorists by Israel, including 280 serving life sentences for the acts of terror.

(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)

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