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Hamas Official: Release our prisoners, then we’ll release Israeli soldiers – Arab-Israeli Conflict

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Hamas official Mahmoud Zahar.
(photo credit:REUTERS)

Mahmoud Zahar, Palestinian politician and co-founder of Hamas, responded Friday morning to Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman’s statement that the Gaza Strip could become the next Singapore if Israelis held captive in Gaza were returned.

“Release the Palestinian hero Mujahideen, of all factions, held in your prisons and then we will release the Israeli soldiers,” Zahar said.

In a conversation with Palestine Today, Zahar stated that “if we wanted to turn Gaza into a Singapore, we would do so with our own hands and not as a favor to anyone else.” Zahar, addressing Liberman, stated that “there are Palestinians in Israeli prisons, they are are killing them slowly, treating them poorly, and therefore the issue of the [Israeli] soldiers is connected to releasing the prisoners.”

The Hamas official added that they “care about the release of [Palestinian] prisoners more than Liberman cares about the release of his soldiers from the hands of the resistance. The issue is the release of prisoners.”

On Thursday Liberman turned to the Palestinian leadership to urge Hamas to lay down its arms in order to set the stage to facilitate direct negotiations and compromises between the two sides.

Speaking Arabic as part of an interview published on the official website of COGAT (Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories), Liberman was quoted as saying: “Let’s talk,” in what some perceived as a genuinely diplomatic gesture.

He clarified that “once Hamas gives up the terror tunnels and the rockets, we will be the first to invest and build them a naval port, an airport and an industrial area.”

According to the defense minister, Israel is capable of “immediately creating some 40,000 jobs for the residents of Gaza, assuming that Hamas will give up the clause of ‘exterminating Israel,’ will give up its terror tunnels, and of course, first and foremost- if [they] return the bodies of our soldiers and civilians who are being held captive by them.”

Pointing to what he deemed the main cause for the rift between the Israeli leadership and its de facto Palestinian counterparts in Ramallah, Liberman also said that “the main problem between us is an utter lack of trust.”

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