A former Hamas leader said the group was holding 200 to 250 people captive, but was focused on securing the release of thousands of Palestinians being held in Israeli prisons.
Khaled Meshaal, who now heads Hamas’s diaspora office and still holds an important position in its leadership, said during an interview with Qatar-based Al Araby TV on Monday that the group’s hostages included some high-ranking officers from the Israel Defense Forces Gaza Division.
Meshaal said, though, there are “6,000 prisoners, of which children, sheikhs, sick, elderly, some of whom have spent more than 25 years in the occupier’s prisons,” a reference to Palestinians in Israeli jails.
“Therefore one of the goals of this operation was to take Israeli hostages from its soldiers and officers,” in order to release Hamas prisoners, he said. Meshaal confirmed there were a number of civilians as well as prisoners of different nationalities, without giving further details.