Hamas continues its propaganda campaign involving Israeli prisoners of war

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On Sunday, Hamas spokesman Abu Obeida released a statement saying an activist from a specialized unit (Shadow Unit) tasked with guarding Israeli prisoners of war was killed in a strike during the May 2021 conflict. in Gaza. Obeida added that three activists belonging to the unit were injured in the strike.

“On the occasion of the eighth anniversary of the Battle of Asaf al-Makul [2014 Gaza War] during which the al-Qassam Brigades [Hamas] captured two Zionist soldiers. The leadership of Al-Qassam is authorized to reveal only one location during the Battle of Sayf al-Quds [2021 Gaza war] suffered a Zionist bombardment last year, which resulted in the martyrdom of one of the shadow fighters and the injury of three others as they carried out the mission to guard one of the [Israeli] soldiers,” Obeida said.

In recent weeks, Hamas has launched a propaganda campaign to pressure the Israeli government into accepting a deal to exchange Palestinian prisoners for Israeli prisoners of war. In early July, Hamas released a video of Hisham al-Sayyed, an Israeli who entered Gaza in 2015. The group claimed Sayyed’s health was deteriorating and released photos of him hooked up to an IV and breathing using an oxygen mask. [See FDD’s Long War Journal: Analysis: Hamas Publishes Information on an Israeli Held Captive Since 2015.]

Hamas is currently holding four Israelis (two of which are the bodies of IDF soldiers) as bargaining chips to replicate the 2011 Wafa al-Ahrar (True to Freedom) prisoner exchange where 1,027 Palestinian prisoners were released by Israel for a kidnapped IDF soldier.

Although reports of the killing and wounding of Hamas shadow unit members are new, Obeida’s main message, although not explicitly stated, is that Israel bombed the site where an IDF prisoner was being held. , possibly causing injury. And this is where the propaganda part of the message comes in.

Obeida deliberately omitted key details of the strike and the status of POWs in an effort to create urgency and pressure the Israeli government into agreeing to a prisoner swap with Hamas.

The latest series of videos and statements released by Hamas signal that the group understands that time is not on its side. About eight years have passed without reaching an agreement with Israel on a prisoner exchange. This is probably one of the main factors behind Hamas’ latest push. However, the Israeli government is unlikely to be constrained by the latest Hamas overtures and propaganda.

Israel learned from the mistakes it made during the prisoner swap with Hamas in 2011, particularly with the release of current Hamas leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar. Until Israel is satisfied with the people it frees and the number of Palestinian prisoners exchanged for Israeli captives, Hamas videos or propaganda statements are unlikely to push the government to agree to a deal until that he feels he will not repeat the mistakes of past prisoner exchanges. .

Joe Truzman is a contributor to FDD’s Long War Journal.

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Key words: Avira Mengistu, Gilad Shalit, Hisham al-Sayyed, IDF, Oron Shaul, POW, Shadow Unit

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