Hamas says ready for prisoner exchange with Israel

The Palestinian group Hamas has announced it is ready to conclude a deal on swapping prisoners with the Israeli side.

Hamas Spokesman Hazem Kasem told Al Jazeera the movement is ready to release all the prisoners held by it in exchange to all those held by Israel.

The spokesman also noted that Hamas is hoping to “cope with the current battle, relying on its own forces and the Palestinian people’s ability to resist”.

There are 19 prisons within Israel and one inside the occupied West Bank that hold thousands of Palestinian prisoners.

The Axios website reported citing sources, director of Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency David Barnea visited Qatar over the weekend and met with the country’s top officials to discuss steps to free more than 235 hostages in the Gaza Strip,

According to Axios, Barnea’s trip to Qatar came after Israel decided to expand its ground operation. Two sources claimed that the talks were constructive but did not lead to a breakthrough, according to the website. A third source told Axios that progress had been made.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed on Monday at least 33 children are being held hostage by Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

“Hamas is holding over 200 Israelis hostage, including 33 children. Holding them, terrorizing them, keeping them as hostages,” he told a press conference.

“Every civilized nation should stand with Israel in demanding that these hostages be freed immediately and freed unconditionally,” he added.

Families of hostages held in Gaza say they told Netanyahu they would only accept an “everyone in return for everyone” deal, which would secure the immediate release of all hostages.

Several Western countries and families of those held have reportedly pressured Israel to delay a ground attack into Gaza in the hope more can be freed.

The ongoing crisis in the Middle East started with a “terrorist attack” on Israeli civilians, Putin noted. However, instead of “punishing” those behind it, Israel “unfortunately” opted for “vengeance” and assigned “collective responsibility” for it.

The major escalation between Hamas and Israel began on October 7 with a surprise attack launched by the Palestinian group. Israel responded with massive aerial and artillery bombardment of Gaza, which has already resulted in widespread destruction and heavy civilian casualties in the enclave.

More than 8,000 Palestinians, including over 3,000 children, have been killed, according to local health authorities. Women and children constitute about 70% of those killed in the Gaza Strip since the escalation.

In Israel, more than 1,400 have been killed during the conflict, according to the IDF.

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