Gulf Arab state Bahrain calls for Hamas-Israel ‘hostage trade’


Manama (Reuters) – The crown prince of Gulf Arab state Bahrain on Friday called for a “hostage trade” between Palestinian militant group Hamas and Israel in order to achieve a break in hostilities that he said could lead to an end to the Israel-Hamas war in the Gaza Strip.

Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa also said that security would not be realised without a two-state solution, in which he described the United States as “indispensable” in achieving.

“It is a time for straight talking,” he said, urging Hamas to release Israeli women and children held hostage in Gaza and for Israel in exchange to release from its prisons Palestinian women and children, who he described as non-combatants.

“The intention is to break so people can take stock, can bury their dead, people can finally start to grieve and maybe people can start to ask themselves about the intelligence failure that led to this crisis in the first place,” he said

Fellow Gulf Arab state Qatar has been leading mediation efforts between the Islamist militant group and Israeli officials for the release of more than 240 hostages.

Sunni-ruled Bahrain established ties with Israel in 2020 under the U.S.-brokered Abraham Accords, driven in part by shared concerns over regional power Shi’ite-majority Iran. Bahrain is an important security partner of the United States, hosting the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet.

Bahrain’s parliament this month said, amid outage in the Arab world over Israel’s bombardment of Gaza, that Israel’s ambassador had left the country, while its own envoy had left Israel, although it remains unclear if the Israel diplomat was expelled.

Prince Salman described the situation in Gaza as “intolerable” and condemned both Hamas for its Oct. 7 attack and Israel for the “air campaign” it launched in response.

He outlined what he said were red lines in the conflict, including the forced displacement of Palestinians, “now or ever”, an Israeli reoccupation of Gaza, and a military threat from Gaza towards Israel.

Prince Salman, speaking at the IISS Manama Dialogue, also called for Palestinian elections, once the war ends, that would lead to a “just and lasting peace” that he described as the establishment of an Palestinian state which he said would also lead to security and stability for Israel.

“This conflict has been an ongoing, open wound in the Middle East for the past 80 years,” he said

More than 12,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s assault on the coastal strip, according to Gaza health officials. Israeli authorities say 1,200 were killed on Oct. 7 and over 200 Israelis and foreign citizens taken hostage.

An exchange of hostages was the only way to achieve a necessary break in violence so that humanitarian aid like medicine, fuel to power medical machines, and food could be provided to the Palestinians in Gaza, Prince Salman said.

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