Hamas chief may keep some Israeli hostages ‘forever,’ warns Israeli security expert

It will be his life insurance policy, said Jacob Nagel to NBC News.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

A former Israeli national security adviser believes that Hamas chief Yahya Sinwar will never let all the hostages go in a deal with Israel in order to protect himself, NBC News reported Wednesday.

Jacob Nagel, who served in the position for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 2016-2017, told the media outlet that “He’ll keep some of the hostages forever because this will be his insurance policy that no one will kill him.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called Sinwar a “dead man walking,” and Israel has offered up to $400,000 for him in leaflets dropped over Gaza, with smaller rewards for other leaders. Netanyahu also ordered that a special unit be established in the Mossad to track down those who led and executed the October 7 invasion in which the  terrorists massacred 1,200 people and abducted some 250, no matter where they are in the world and no matter how long it takes.

Israel has long believed that Sinwar and his closest coterie are hiding in the vast tunnel networks running under Khan Younis, and have surrounded themselves with at least some of the approximately 110 kidnap victims still believed alive. Israeli officials have said that at least 25 hostages have been killed while in Hamas custody.

In a late November deal, 86 female and underage Israelis freed along with almost two dozen Thai workers who had been abducted as well.

The IDF recently uncovered a dank, dark tunnel with several empty cages in which they believe at least some of those hostages, and maybe others, had been held. Indicators included drawings by one of the child victims who was freed, as well as other items. Special forces have also found traces of hostages in other tunnels as well throughout the war.

“It is a fair assumption that Sinwar and Hamas leadership were close to where those hostages were kept — and then they all moved on,” said Jonathan Conricus, a former IDF spokesman who was called back to duty for an earlier part of the war and is now Nagel’s colleague at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a Washington-based think tank focusing on national security and foreign policy.

“I think being close to hostages has saved his life more than once,” he added.

The IDF assumes that Sinwar and the other leaders of the Hamas side of the war change locations frequently in order to escape the fierce manhunt being conducted for them as the fighting continues nonstop in Khan Younis, which has by now been completely surrounded by IDF forces.

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Israeli officials have also acknowledged the possibility that Sinwar may have escaped to Egypt through the immense tunnel system Hamas has built throughout the coastal enclave over the 18 years it has been in power.

Gershon Baskin, a political commentator who has pushed peace talks with all Palestinians, including Hamas, for decades, and who was involved in negotiating the deal that saw Hamas release Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in 2011 for over a thousand Palestinian prisoners, including senior ones such as Sinwar himself, does not think that the man who plotted the October 7 attack has left Gaza.

He also doesn’t believe Sinwar would take a reported deal that Israel has offered that includes exile for the Hamas leadership along with a partial ceasefire in exchange for the rest of the hostages.

“I do not believe this is going to happen,” Baskin told NBC. “This is not Yasser Arafat in 1982 escaping to Beirut with the Palestinian Liberation Organization. This is a totally different mindset.”

“I believe Sinwar knows he will die a martyr and he’s not afraid of death,” he added. “This is Hamas’s distorted version of Islam. Life on earth is short and paradise is eternal.”