Hamas’ armed wing, Qasssam Brigades, on Friday showed photographs of four Israelis who are currently held captive in the Gaza Strip and denied that contact or negotiations were being made with Israel regarding their release, the Israeli media report.
Statements made by the Qassam spokesman, Abu Obeida, retaliated to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s statements over the capture of the four Israelis: he denied reports that Israel and Hamas may be nearing a prisoner swap for the four.
“There is no contact with the occupation in relation to the missing soldiers in Gaza and we won’t give free information,” said Abu Obeida. “Netanyahu lied to his people when he spoke about his prisoners”, he added.
Last week, Netanyahu claimed that an important development has been reached in the case of missing Israelis in Gaza. He said:
“There are countless efforts underway in this regard, for which I hold meetings every few days. I have been briefed two days ago about a significant development, but of course it is impossible to achieve any progress on these issues except away from the limelight. This will not be the only achievement pushed forward in this manner, through secret channels, but it is certainly the first of its kind.”
According to the Israeli media, the two Israeli soldiers were identified as Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin. They died during Israel’s attack on the Gaza Strip in July 2014.
A third Israeli was identified as 29-year-old Avraham Mengistu, from Ethiopian descent.
Mr. Mengistu, who is believed to be in his mid to late 20s, crossed an Israeli-constructed fence that surrounds much of Gaza on Sept. 7, 2014. His family has said that he has psychiatric problems.
Hamas is also holding a settler who has not been identified yet.
Previously, the Israeli government has conducted prisoner exchanges between Palestinian prisoners and Israeli soldiers held captive and for the remains of dead Israelis.
In 2011, Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier who was seized in a cross-border raid in 2006 and held captive by Hamas in Gaza for five years, was freed in exchange for the release of more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners.