Red Cross Offers to Mediate Prisoner Exchange Deal between Israel and Hamas

Palestinian activists held two separate protests in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners and in commemoration of Arab Prisoners Day. (Photo: Fawzi Mahmoud, The Palestine Chronicle)

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said on Thursday that it is ready to mediate between Hamas and Israel, to secure an exchange of prisoners.

“I have conveyed to both sides our offer to be a neutral intermediary, should there be a negotiated exchange for detainees or human remains,” Robert Mardini, director-general of the ICRC said in a statement.

Israel currently holds 4,650 Palestinians, including around 180 children and 39 women, according to the Palestinian Prisoners Club.

Hamas is currently holding four Israeli soldiers, including two taken hostage during the 2014 conflict.

Additionally, the remains of Israeli soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin have been held by Hamas since 2013.

The ICRC’s offer follows comments by Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar, who said on Monday that the group was ready for “immediate negotiations” for the exchange of prisoners.

Israel has threatened to prevent any reconstruction efforts in Gaza unless a deal between the two sides is reached to secure the return of Israeli prisoners and the remains of soldiers.

Following his offer of mediation, Mardini also lamented the appalling conditions that the people of Gaza are subject to.

“People in Gaza have been deeply affected by the latest escalation. With every round of fighting, they are left worse off, with livelihoods and homes ruined once more,” he said.

“Humanitarian aid, which is now preventing the collapse of some essential services in Gaza, is not a sustainable solution,” he added.

The last major exchange of prisoners between Israel and Hamas occurred in 2011, when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the release of 1,027 Palestinian prisoners, in exchange for Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

A ceasefire was recently declared between Hamas and Israel, following 11 days of violence, during which Israeli strikes killed over 250 Palestinians, including 67 children, were killed.

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