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Will Hamas’s overseas terror leaders end up on Israel’s hit list?

“Israeli leaders see actions of this kind as their personal obligation to the victims,” says professor Boaz Ganor.

Hamas leader in exile Khaled Meshaal (right) and Hamas politburo chief Ismail Haniyeh in the southern Gaza Strip on Dec. 10, 2012. Photo by Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90.
Hamas leader in exile Khaled Meshaal (right) and Hamas politburo chief Ismail Haniyeh in the southern Gaza Strip on Dec. 10, 2012. Photo by Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90.

Israeli political and military leaders have signaled that Hamas’s overseas leadership is not immune from future assassination.

These figures consist of terror leaders like Salah Al-Arouri, the deputy political bureau chief who is based in Lebanon, and the Qatar-based figures of Hamas political bureau chief Ismail Haniyeh, as well as overseas Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal. They enjoy lavish lives in hotels as the Gaza Strip descends further into war, begun by Hamas’s mass murders and other atrocities committed after they infiltrated the border with southern Israel on Oct. 7.

Arouri directly orchestrates terrorism in Judea and Samaria.

On Nov. 24, after being asked whether the Israel Defense Forces had the ability to prevent Hamas leaders in Gaza from escaping the Strip with hostages via tunnels to Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, IDF Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari stated: “We are following everything that needs to be followed. Hamas leaders in Gaza. And everywhere in the world.”

Two days earlier, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared at a Tel Aviv press conference that he instructed the Mossad intelligence agency overseas “to act against the heads of Hamas wherever they are.”

Israeli soldiers around the destruction caused by Hamas terrorists in Kfar Aza, near the Gaza border in southern Israel, Oct. 10, 2023. Photo by Chaim Goldberg/Flash90.

‘A primary target for elimination’

Professor Boaz Ganor, president of Reichman University and founder of the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism who co-authored the 2022 book, Israel’s Targeted Killing Policy, told JNS the precedent for such action exists.

Ganor noted that after the severe attack carried out by Black September (a nickname used for attacks carried out by the Fatah organization and the Habash Front factions, in which 11 members of the Israeli delegation to the Munich Olympics in 1972 were murdered, “the government of Golda Meir decided to embark on a campaign to eliminate all those involved in initiating, planning, preparing, assisting and carrying out the attack. Indeed, over the years that followed, cells of the Israeli Mossad tracked down and eliminated these activists one after the other in various countries around the world.”

Ganor said that the attacks carried out by Hamas on Oct. 7, when Palestinian terrorists murdered, tortured and raped 1,200 Israeli women, children and men; injured thousands; and kidnapped some 240 others, including babies and the elderly, dragging them from their beds on a Saturday morning, “is the largest attack in the history of the State of Israel and one of the most severe in the world.”

He continued, saying that “if we compare the sizes of the Israeli and American populations, the scope of the casualties in Israel in this attack is equivalent to about 34,000 casualties” in the terrorist attacks in the United States on Sept. 11, 2001.

In light of the statements of Israeli spokespeople and considering the Israeli experience, Ganor said “it is reasonable to assume that in the coming years, senior Hamas officials will be a primary target for elimination by the Israeli Mossad, whether they are in an Arab country or another country.”

According to Ganor, the purpose of such targeted killings would be to create deterrence against other terror leaders from carrying out attacks in Israel; neutralize senior Hamas figures; and disrupt future terror operations, as well as Hamas’s ability to continue and carry out mega-terror attacks of this kind.

“There is no doubt that Israeli leaders see actions of this kind as their personal obligation to the Israeli victims and their families—and to the entire people of Israel,” he said.

“Israel has already proven that there is no corner of the world its agents cannot reach and operate in, and it is likely that the heads of Hamas will discover this for themselves,” stated Ganor. “However, at the same time, it must be taken into account that these leaders knew this and took this risk when they planned and executed this barbaric massacre. Therefore, the Israeli statements do not surprise the heads of Hamas and do not necessarily change their behavior patterns.”

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