Israeli leaders are considering the idea of exiling Hamas leader in Gaza Yahya Sinwar in exchange for the release of all hostages held by the terrorist group and an end to its governance of the territory.
Six Israeli officials and senior advisers confirmed to NBC News on Thursday that Jerusalem would be willing to allow the exit from Gaza of the mastermind of the Oct. 7 massacre.
Sinwar is believed to be hiding in the vast tunnel systems underneath Khan Yunis and Rafah, surrounded by hostages used as human shields.
In addition to Sinwar, Hamas “military wing” commander Mohammed Deif and four other top leaders of the terrorist group would be sent into exile.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu revealed in November that the Mossad national intelligence agency has orders to kill the top leadership of Hamas anywhere in the world. Saleh al-Arouri, Judea and Samaria commander for Hamas, was killed by an Israeli strike in Beirut in early January.
The IDF has been waging a war to destroy Hamas in Gaza after some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, were murdered, thousands more wounded and over 250 kidnapped during the Oct. 7 terrorist attack on southern Israel.
According to the Israeli sources, the idea to exile the Hamas leadership has been “on the table” since November. The Israelis discussed the idea with the Americans, among other ideas that would see a moderate government and a deradicalized education system replacing Hamas in Gaza.
“We don’t mind if [Sinwar] will leave like Arafat left Lebanon,” a senior adviser to Netanyahu told NBC News. “We will allow it to happen as long as all of the hostages are released.”
Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat and hundreds of PLO terrorists were forced to leave Lebanon in 1982, with Arafat resettling in Tunisia. He returned as part of the Oslo process.
However, a former senior Israeli security official threw cold water on the exile idea, telling NBC News, “[Exile] is this magical solution that everybody would want, but there’s absolutely no way Hamas would agree to that.”