Exclusive: As part of larger ceasefire negotiations, Israel’s espionage head suggested that Hamas leaders evacuate Gaza

As part of a wider ceasefire accord, Israel has suggested that senior Hamas leaders leave Gaza, two people familiar with the continuing international discussions told CNN. The unprecedented offer, which hasn’t been made public before, comes as Israel has been having difficulty accomplishing its declared objective of annihilating Hamas. Israel claims that 70% of Hamas’s fighting force remains intact despite its nearly four-month-long assault in Gaza, and it has failed to apprehend or kill any of the organization’s most senior officials.

 

While removing the top Hamas officials from Gaza would allow them to leave the region safely and allow Israel to continue pursuing valuable targets overseas, it would also diminish Hamas’ hold on the war-torn region. It is known that senior Hamas officials reside outside of the Palestinian territory in Beirut, the capital of Lebanon, and Doha, Qatar. An important Hamas commander was killed in a Beirut Israeli attack earlier this month.

 

According to one official familiar with the discussions, Israel’s intelligence chief, Mossad Director David Barnea, has at least twice this month in Warsaw and this month in Doha with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, discussed Israel’s proposal that Hamas leaders could leave Gaza as part of broader ceasefire negotiations. Although it is unlikely to be accepted by Hamas. It also coincides with a frenzy of diplomatic action aimed at bringing about a protracted cessation of hostilities and the release of captives thought to be in Gaza. Brett McGurk, the top White House negotiator for the Middle East, is visiting Egypt and Qatar this week to hold additional discussions.

 

Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister of Israel, is under increasing pressure to present a resolution. By his own admission, the “complete victory” against Hamas that he has demanded is a long way off. In the meantime, Israelis’ frustration has increased over the government’s failure to repatriate the over 100 captives held in Gaza. Senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Aaron David Miller claims that Israel is “not achieving their military objectives.” Israel would be willing to suggest that Hamas officials leave Gaza as a result of this, Miller claimed, along with the “enormous pressure” on Netanyahu and his administration to return hostages.

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