Germany is mediating a prisoner exchange deal between Israel and Hamas, the Al Hayat daily reported Thursday morning. According to the report based on Western sources, Germany initiated contact with both sides and emphasized that Israel and Hamas consider Germany a fair entity that can assist in talks, such as when Israel accepted Germany’s proposal to secure the release of captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in 2011.
Germany began the negotiations with Israel and Hamas three years ago, the report said.
According to the report, two German envoys visited Gaza several times in secret and met with senior Hamas officials who were in charge of negotiations. Mediation took place through two channels, the report said: between German representatives of Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and with a third mediator located in Berlin.
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The report doesn’t include details on any advancement in the negotiations and that Germany’s involvement does not cancel Egypt’s current mediator role on the issue of prisoner swaps since Egypt will be a full partner in the deal if and when the deal is implemented as it did with Shalit.
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Hamas is holding two Israeli civilians, Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, who crossed the border into the Gaza Strip, as well as the bodies of soldiers Staff Sgt. Oron Shaul and Lieutenant Hadar Goldin, who were killed during Operation Protective Edge in 2014. Last year, Yaron Blum, a former Shin Bet security service member and a member of the negotiating team in the Shalit deal, was appointed coordinator of POWs and MIAs.
Hamas, including its military wing, made it clear recently that it would not agree to any deal that doesn’t guarantee the release of its prisoners in Israel, including those defined as "heavy" prisoners, which are prisoners who were charged with serious offenses. The group has also stipulated that negotiations can only occur if Israel releases prisoners who were freed in the 2011 Shalit deal and rearrested after Israeli teenagers were kidnapped in 2014.