This Is How Israel Can Release Its Prisoners – Saleh Al-Arouri

Saleh al-Arouri, the deputy head of Hamas's political bureau. (Photo: Sayyed Mahmoud Hosseini, AJA, video grab)

By Palestine Chronicle Staff  

Two days after Israel began to, once more, kill and wound hundreds of Gaza civilians on a daily basis, the deputy head of Hamas’ political bureau had a firm message to Israel.

“Currently, there are no negotiations, and the official and final stance of Hamas and the Resistance is that there will be no exchange until the complete and final cessation of the Zionist terrorist aggression (on Gaza)”.

With these words, Deputy Head of the Political Bureau of Hamas, Saleh Al-Arouri began a live interview with Al-Jazeera Arabic Channel. 

Arouri, considered one of the top Hamas leaders in Gaza, or anywhere else, wanted to communicate a clear and unmistakable message two days after Israel returned to its war on Gaza, which has, so far, killed 15,207 Palestinians. 

Since the resumption of the Israeli war, over 200 Palestinians have been killed. 

By killing more Palestinians, Israel is hoping to put pressure on the Palestinian Resistance so that they release all Israeli prisoners held in Gaza. 

Prisoner swap talks came to an end on December 1 in Doha, Qatar, leading to the return to war. 

But what is Hamas’ position on what has transpired in Doha? 

‘No Negotiations under Bombs’ 

“From the beginning, Hamas declared that it is ready to release foreign prisoners without any exchange and that children and women prisoners will not be targeted, and will be released,” Arouri said. 

“The remaining prisoners with us are soldiers and former soldiers, and there are no negotiations regarding their matter until the end of the aggression,” he said. 

Israel insists that Hamas is still holding women and children, though has not provided any evidence to its allegations. 

According to Hamas’ classification of the Israeli prisoners, they include active soldiers – whether men or women – military reserve personnel, older male reserve soldiers and officers, and top military brass. 

There are also dead soldiers, who have either died from their wounds during the October 7 clashes or were killed during Israel’s deadly bombardments of Gaza.

‘Our Martyrs for Your Dead’ 

“We have said from the beginning that we are ready to exchange the bodies of our martyrs held by the occupation, but we need time to retrieve the bodies of the Zionist prisoners killed by the occupation in its raids on our people in Gaza,” Arouri told Al-Jazeera. 

“The elderly men, all of whom served in the army, some of whom are still on the reserve list, have different criteria for us than what was previously mentioned,” he added. 

And this is why Israel continues to bomb Gaza, killing and wounding hundreds more. “The Zionist terrorist occupation refused to complete the deal to release the former soldiers with new criteria, thinking that by resuming targeting children and women, we would capitulate. However, our official position is that the exchange deal will be discussed after the end of the war.” 

In one single attack on Saturday, Israel has reportedly killed over 100 Palestinians in the Jabaliya refugee camp. 

‘Delusional Enemy’ 

According to Arouri, 

“The occupation is delusional if it thinks it can impose its dominance on us. Its first round in the war was a complete failure. We are absolutely confident that the occupation will fail to control the Gaza Strip.” 

But where does Arouri’s confidence come from? 

“The forces that the Zionist army mobilized to attack Gaza, which are a third of its ground forces and more than a third of its air force, are sufficient to defeat entire countries. Yet, it decided to attack only a third of the area of the Gaza Strip in the north, and for 50 days it did not succeed in taking control, and it will never succeed,” he said. 

He added that “the countries supporting the Zionist occupation have become convinced that the goals announced by the Zionist government to eliminate Hamas, forcibly retrieve the prisoners, and control Gaza, are unachievable.”

“The Zionist enemy needs to go through this round so that its people and supporters are assured that it will fail to liberate the prisoners except through an exchange operation as the Resistance wants.” 

He reiterated, “we have said from day one that the price for releasing the Zionist prisoners is the complete liberation of our prisoners, after the ceasefire.”

(The Palestine Chronicle) 

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