Hamas willing to implement prisoner exchange if Israel halts land and air operations

Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant accused Hamas of playing 'psychological games'

Plumes of smoke rise during Israeli strikes in Gaza city on Sunday. Reuters
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Hamas is willing to implement a prisoner exchange deal with a ceasefire if Israel halts ground incursions and air strikes on Gaza, a spokesman for the group told The National on Sunday.

Israel increased its ground operations in Gaza on Saturday and its fighter jets have struck 450 Hamas targets in 24 hours, in what Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called “the second phase of the war”.

“The occupation is conducting an unprecedented war on our people and is deliberately killing thousands of civilians, therefore our discussions are not about setting conditions,” Hazem Qassim, Hamas spokesman, told The National.

It is “rather about what is required to immediately stop the aggression against our Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip, in addition to preparations to implement a prisoner exchange deal with a ceasefire”.

Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant accused Hamas of playing "psychological games" over the hostages.

"The stories published by Hamas are part of their psychological games ... Hamas is cynically using those who are dear to us," Mr Gallant told relatives of some of the hostages, a statement released by his office said.

"They understand the pain and the pressure."

On October 7, Hamas fighters launched an attack on southern Israeli communities, killing about 1,400 people and taking more than 200 hostages.

Israel has responded to the attacks with a campaign of air and artillery strikes that has killed more than 8,000 Palestinians, including at least 3,000 children.

Gaza is home to 2.3 million Palestinians and the military wing of Hamas, which has governed the territory since 2007.

Hamas has so far released four hostages. Two US citizens – a mother and daughter – were freed on October 20, and two Israeli women, Nurit Cooper and Yocheved Lifschitz, were released on October 24.

Hamas's armed wing said on Sunday that its fighters were engaged in “heavy fighting” with Israeli forces in Gaza.

“Our fighters are currently engaged in heavy fighting with machineguns and anti-tank weapons with the invading occupation forces in north-west Gaza,” the Ezzedine Al Qassam Brigades said.

Earlier, the group said two Israeli tanks had caught fire after being hit by its fighters, a claim that the Israeli army has not confirmed.

Updated: October 29, 2023, 8:06 PM