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31 Jan, 2024 20:06

Israel might let Hamas leaders live in exile – media

The government in West Jerusalem has reportedly discussed allowing Palestinian militants to take refuge in another country
Israel might let Hamas leaders live in exile – media

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government has reportedly floated the idea of exiling some Hamas leaders to other Middle East countries to help end the war in Gaza and clear the way for a new governing authority in the Palestinian exclave.

The proposal calls for letting top Hamas officials in Gaza – including political leader Yahya Sinwar and military commander Mohammed Deif – move to another country, such as Algeria, Qatar or Saudi Arabia, Semafor reported on Tuesday, citing people familiar with discussions by Israeli and US officials. The militant leaders who planned the October 7 attacks that triggered the current war would be among those allowed to escape into exile.

Some Israeli officials see the plan as a way to help persuade Hamas to free its remaining hostages in Gaza, lay down arms and turn over governance of the Palestinian territory to new leadership, Semafor said. Such a peace agreement might then accelerate a US-brokered deal for Saudi Arabia to establish diplomatic relations with Israel.

John Hannah, a former White House aide in President George W. Bush’s administration, told Semafor that ending the war quickly would open the door for normalizing relations between Riyadh and West Jerusalem, thereby countering Iran’s influence in the region. He called the Israel-Saudi deal “a major US objective” and said he had discussed the Hamas exile plan with senior Washington and Israeli officials in recent weeks.

The strategy of letting Hamas leaders go into exile might be similar to a 1982 initiative in which the Palestinian Liberation Organization, led by Yasser Arafat, moved its headquarters to Tunisia after being besieged by Israeli forces in Lebanon. However, even if a willing country could be found to provide a safe haven, Semafor said it’s unlikely that Hamas leaders would accept such an offer.

“The Hamas guys in Gaza won’t leave,” as they would probably prefer to die as martyrs, a senior Arab official told the media outlet. Besides, Hamas leaders know that the Israelis could eventually hunt them down and kill them anywhere they might take refuge. Mossad chief David Barnea vowed earlier this month to take revenge on everyone involved in the October 7 attacks, “wherever they will be.”

Nearly 27,000 Gazans have been killed since the war began, according to Palestinian health officials. The October 7 Hamas attacks killed more than 1,100 people in Israel, and hundreds more were taken back to Gaza as hostages. Most of the casualties on both sides were civilians.

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