Hamas terrorists in Gaza. (AP/Khalil Hamra) (AP/Khalil Hamra)

Are Hamas and Israel involved in negotiations? Reports from both sides indicate that they are.

Hamas and Israel are holding a secret channel of communication, a Hamas official said on Sunday.

Hamas leader Ahmad Yousef told the press there were “chats” taking place between the Islamist movement and Israel, under European mediation, Palestinian news agency Ma’an reports.

Yousef told Ma’an that “we await the formation of an Israeli government so things can get more serious. European diplomats and civil society activists come to the Gaza Strip constantly and pose Israeli viewpoints and convey the reaction of the movement through unofficial chats.”

For instance, he claims there are talks concerning a long-term ceasefire and a seaport in Gaza, although he denies that there was direct communication between Hamas and Israel.

Yousef added that international parties were mediating on the issue of the return of the remains of IDF soldiers killed in Gaza during Operation Protective Edge.

“Hamas has a lot of important cards to play and surprises on the topic of the missing soldiers,” he said.

According to the Hamas official, all parties were informed that no new deal would be made before Israel commits to earlier agreements and releases all Hamas terrorists re-arrested during Operation Brother’s Keeper, launched after the abduction and murder of three Israeli teenagers last summer.

Israel Seeking Long-Term Calm

Ynet reported similarly that official representatives of the Israeli government and its defense establishment have been holding a “real dialogue” with the Islamic terror organization in a bid to reach long-term calm on the Gaza border. The dialogue, which has been partially direct and partially indirect, has lasted for several weeks, they say.

Ynet also confirmed a report that Israel had received a concrete and detailed proposal from Hamas for a truce of five to 10 years.

Explaining the Israeli rationale, Ynet quotes defense establishment officials who believe that the absence of a dialogue, aiming to ease living conditions in Gaza, would lead to armed conflict in the summer, in which case Operation Protective Edge would be perceived as a colossal failure.

The official pushing for talks with Hamas, Ynet says, is the coordinator of government activity in the territories (COGAT) in cooperation with new IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot, with assistance from the political leadership.

By: Max Gelber, United with Israel