Israel under a new, broader ceasefire agreement has proposed that a senior Hamas leader can leave Gaza, news broadcaster CNN reported citing people familiar with the developments. This aspect of the ceasefire proposal appears to be going against what Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu aimed for when he ordered the launch of the retaliatory strikes and a ground siege of Gaza.
Netanyahu promised to ensure that Hamas is not left with any means to launch attacks like it did on October 7 and is destroyed completely. The broadcaster’s report pointed out that Israel failed to capture or kill any of Hamas’s most senior leaders in Gaza.
It also said that around 70% of Hamas’ fighting force remains intact. It cited Israel’s own estimates.
The report also said that if Hamas leaders are taken out of Gaza then it could weaken the group’s grip on the war-torn coastal enclave and also allow Israel to keep tracking down high-value targets abroad.
Israel has carried out strikes in Beirut, killing a top Hamas commander earlier this month. Hamas officials are known to live in Doha, Qatar and the Lebanese capital Beirut among other places outside Gaza Strip.
The broadcaster in its report said that the proposal may not be accepted by Hamas. The plans have been discussed earlier in December in Warsaw by Israel’s intelligence chief, Mossad Director David Barnea and this month in Doha with US secretary of state Antony Blinken, the broadcaster said, citing people familiar with the developments.
A separate report by news outlet Axios which also cited Israeli officials said that Israel is planning to propose Hamas through Qatari and Egyptian mediators a two-month ceasefire plan where both sides will exchange hostages and prisoners.
More than 130 hostages are still being held in Gaza and Israeli officials believe a dozen or so hostages died on October 7 or in the following weeks. In the first phase, women, men over the age of 60 years old and hostages who are in critical medical condition will be released.
In the second phase, female soldiers, men under the age of 60 years old who are not soldiers, Israeli male soldiers and the bodies of hostages will be released. Israel and Hamas will also discuss how many Palestinian prisoners would be released for each Israeli hostage in each category.