Israel, Hamas in Indirect Negotiations for Release of Israeli Nationals Held in Gaza

Hamas leader, Ismail Haniyeh, attends a Eid al-Fitr prayer in an open area in Gaza city on June 25, 2017. (MAHMUD HAMS/AFP/GETTY)

Israel and Hamas are in indirect negotiations for the release of Israeli nationals held hostage in the Gaza Strip by the militant group.

According to Israeli media reports, a visit to Egypt by Hamas’ new leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, known for his hardline views, has been followed by an uptick in activity between the two sides.

The talks are being mediated by an unknown third party but Sinwar’s trip means the speculation will fall on Egypt, which has tried to mediate deals between the two sides in the past.

They are focusing on retrieving at least two Israeli nationals who entered the coastal enclave across the southern Israeli border of their own volition: Ethiopian-Israeli Avraham Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed.

In Egypt, Sinwar met with one of the former Palestinian figureheads touted as a replacement for ageing Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Mohammad Dahlan.

He was a strongman in Gaza for Fatah until Abbas eventually ousted him from the party. He played a role in the 2011 prisoner swap for Israeli solider Gilad Shalit in exchange for more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners.

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SOURCE: Newsweek, Jack Moore