BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Israeli media reported on Sunday that the Hamas movement, the de facto ruling party in the besieged Gaza Strip, refused a prisoner exchange offer by Israel.
The Israeli government offered to release a Hamas official in Israeli custody in exchange for the release of one of two Israelis thought to be held alive in the Gaza Strip, according to The Jerusalem Post, based on a Hebrew-language report from Israel Radio.
Israel National News described the offer as “humanitarian,” due to the fact that both captives have psychological issues.
Avraham Mengistu, an Israeli of Ethiopian descent, has reportedly been held by Hamas since September 2015 when he accidentally wandered into Gaza. Hisham al-Sayed, a young Israeli-Bedouin man who has schizophrenia, was last seen when he crossed into the Palestinian territory in April 2015.
Israel Radio quoted an anonymous Hamas official as saying the exchange was rejected because such a deal would have to be "all or nothing."
Hamas has repeatedly insisted that Israel must release all prisoners who were freed as part of the 2011 Gilad Shalit deal who have since been redetained before starting talks of a new prisoner swap deal
In addition to Mengistu and al-Sayed, Hamas also claims to hold the bodies of two Israeli soldiers, Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin, who were pronounced dead by Israel during the 2014 war in Gaza, though Hamas has never explicitly said whether the two Israeli soldiers were alive or dead.
According to Palestinian prisoners' rights group Addameer, some 7,000 Palestinians were held in Israeli custody as of October.