Israel said to be considering letting Hamas chief Yahya Sinwar flee in return for hostages
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is reportedly contemplating a deal that could see the release of Hamas’ top terrorist chief, Yahya Sinwar, who plotted the savage 07 October attacks on Israel.
The deal would involve freeing him in exchange for the release of all remaining hostages held by Hamas. Sinwar, who has led the political wing of Hamas in Gaza since 2017, has a notorious history of orchestrating attacks on Israel and served 22 years in prison before being released in a 2011 prisoner exchange.
The Israeli government initially said Sinwar and Mohammed Deif, head of Hamas’ military wing must be hunted down in the wake of the 07 October attacks, in which 1,200 Israelis were killed by Hamas gunmen and 240 abducted. However, a senior aide to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has indicated that Israel might allow Sinwar and other senior Hamas officials to live in exile, contingent on the release of all Israeli hostages.
According to Israeli media reports, the proposed deal could also involve establishing a ‘deradicalised’ Palestinian governing body in Gaza, replacing the terrorist group with selected civilian leaders who might be suitable to lead Gaza marking the end of Hamas’s influence and reforming Gaza’s education system.
“We need a young leadership, a new leadership that thinks differently, that is willing to talk peace and to change the state of mind and educate the people, both in the West Bank and in Gaza,” said a senior aid to Netanyahu.
Jacob Nagel, former National Security Advisor to Netanyahu said, “Deradicalisation can be done. It will take time, but it can be done”.
This development comes amid Netanyahu’s rejection of a recent ceasefire proposal by Hamas, vowing ‘total victory’ over the terrorist group. IDF officials say Sinwar, aged 61, along with Mohammed Deif are hiding out in tunnels deep below Khan Yunis and Rafah, continuing to control and manoeuvre Hamas’ fighters from afar, while also overseeing negotiations concerning the fate of hostages seized during the 07 October attacks.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant confirmed on Monday that the IDF had found “materials” of Sinwar’s left behind in his hideout.
“Sinwar goes from hideout to hideout,” Gallant said at a news conference. “In recent days, IDF troops have found significant materials in the places where he has been recently, and thanks to them, we are deepening our grip on Hamas’ plans”.
Meanwhile, more than half of Gaza’s 2.3 million population has sought refuge in Rafah, near the closed border with Egypt, a crucial entry point for humanitarian aid.
Egypt has warned that any ground operation or mass displacement across the border would violate its four-decade-old peace treaty with Israel.
So far, Hamas officials have said that no hostages will be released until the war ends. Netanyahu with equal conviction has said the war won’t end until Hamas is dismantled.
“There is no solution besides total victory,” Netanyahu told a press conference on Wednesday.
“Continued military pressure is a necessary condition for the release of the hostages,” Netanyahu said.
International aid organisations continue to stress the worsening humanitarian situation, especially in Rafah, emphasising the urgent need for a ceasefire.
The United States, Qatar, and Egypt are engaged in negotiations to secure the release of remaining hostages, while Hamas insists on an end to the war, a full Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, and the release of Palestinian prisoners, including terrorists. Netanyahu rejects these demands.
The Hamas delegation in Egypt suggests ongoing attempts to find a resolution, while pressure mounts on Netanyahu to bring hostages home, even if it entails negotiations with Hamas.
The conflicting goals of saving captives and dismantling Hamas pose a significant challenge. Hamas currently holds over 130 hostages, with at least 30 hostages believed to be dead, and the rest still being used as human shields in underground tunnels.