Israel has proposed that Hamas senior leaders could leave Gaza as part of a broader ceasefire agreement, two officials familiar with the ongoing international discussions told CNN.
The extraordinary proposal, which has not been previously reported, comes as Israel has struggled to achieve its stated goal of completely destroying Hamas. Despite its nearly 4-month war in Gaza, Israel has failed to capture or kill any of Hamas’s most senior leaders in Gaza and left around 70% of Hamas’ fighting force intact, according to Israel’s own estimates.
Though it would give safe passage out of Gaza for top Hamas leaders who orchestrated the October 7 attack, draining Gaza of its leaders could weaken Hamas’ grip on the war-torn area while also allowing Israel to continue tracking down high-value targets abroad.
Senior Hamas officials are known to live in Doha, Qatar, and the Lebanese capital Beirut, among other places outside the Palestinian territories. An Israeli airstrike earlier this month killed a top Hamas commander in Beirut.
Israel’s suggestion that Hamas leaders could leave Gaza, though unlikely to be accepted by Hamas, has been discussed as part of broader ceasefire negotiations at least twice in recent weeks — once last month in Warsaw by Israel’s intelligence chief, Mossad Director David Barnea, and then again this month in Doha with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, according to one official familiar with the discussions.