Israel says Hamas rejects prisoners swap

Israel and Hamas have fought three wars between 2008 and 2014

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A senior Israeli official said Tuesday that Hamas has rejected an offer to swap the bodies of two Israeli soldiers for those of 19 Palestinians and almost as many prisoners.

Lior Lotan, who is in charge of prisoners and missing persons, said the exchange was part of two offers turned down by Hamas, the Islamist movement that rules the Gaza Strip.

Lotan said Israel had been holding since the 2014 Gaza war 18 Palestinians from the enclave as well as the bodies of 19 others and “offered to swap them for the bodies of the two Israeli soldiers”.

Hamas had rejected that offer and turned down a proposal to free Israeli civilians held in Gaza in return for the release of dozens of Gazans who Israel arrested for illegally entry from the strip, he said.

Two Israeli soldiers, Oron Shaul and Hadar Golding, are believed by the army to have been killed in Gaza during the 2014 war.

Hamas is thought to be holding their bodies.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged this month to recover the body of Shaul.

Israel and Hamas have fought three wars between 2008 and 2014.

The Gaza Strip has been under an Israeli blockade for around a decade and its border with Egypt also remains largely closed.

Israel bans its citizens from travelling to Gaza.