After weeks of speculation, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday expressed willingness to enter into a prisoner exchange with Hamas.
“The government coordinator for prisoners and missing persons, Yaron Blum, and his team, in cooperation with the security services, are ready to work constructively so as to recover the war dead and missing soldiers and close this file,” explained the Prime Minister.
Netanyahu’s remarks come after the leader of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, Yahya Sinwar, said last Thursday that there is a “possibility of making progress” in the prisoners’ exchange file if Israel engages in a humanitarian approach rather than a swap process.
“If Israel releases the Palestinian detainees, including the sick, the women and the elderly, from its prisons, we can offer a partial concession,” said Sinwar. “However, a prisoner exchange deal requires a significant price that the occupation must pay.”
On April 1, Israeli Defense Minister Naftali Bennett suggested that Israel will condition any assistance to the besieged Gaza Strip, in its desperate fight against the Coronavirus, on the release of the bodies of two Israeli soldiers.
Besieged and war-stricken Gaza is struggling to cope with the full out of the COVID-19 disease, which is caused by the Coronavirus. Thirteen people have already been reported to have the Coronavirus. However, health experts say the number could be much higher, especially since Gaza’s healthcare system, which is on the verge of collapse, is unequipped to diagnose or to care for COVID-19 patients.
Gaza, with a population of 2 million, has been under a hermetic Israeli siege since 2006, when the Palestinian group Hamas won the democratic legislative elections in occupied Palestine. Since then, Israel has carried out numerous bombing campaigns and several major wars that resulted in the death of thousands of people.
Without outside assistance, Gaza hospitals, with just 96 ventilators, are not prepared to cope with a massive Coronavirus outbreak.
Source: The Palestine Chronicle