Al Jazeera World

Israel and Hamas: Anatomy of a Prisoner Exchange

A prisoner exchange involving five years of negotiations through intermediaries on behalf of Hamas and Israel.

Between 2006 and 2011, a high-stakes negotiated prisoner exchange took place between Israel and Hamas, the group that governs the Gaza Strip. During that time, the two sides did not have any direct contact, so mediators from Egypt, Germany and Ireland were involved. At stake were the terms of exchange between one captured Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, and a large number of Palestinian prisoners.

This film goes behind the scenes of that remarkable five-year operation. Al Jazeera Arabic reporter Tamer Almisshal and his team secured access to those at the centre of the complex negotiations, including a rare interview with senior Hamas leader Marwan Issa as well as former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

It is a story of deadlines, brinksmanship, intelligence and ultimately of deal-making: in exchange for the release of Shalit, Israel released 1,027 Palestinian prisoners. In early 2021, Hamas claimed to hold a further four Israeli prisoners, captured in the 2014 war. While Israel disputed their full claim, it raised the question of whether a new round of prisoner exchange negotiations may be on the cards for these two sworn enemies.