ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 146

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Hamas wish list of prisoners includes terror masterminds of Second Intifada

Terror group expeced to demand the freeing of planners of suicide bombings at Hebrew University, Park Hotel, Sbarro restaurant as part of potential truce and hostage release deal

  • PFLP Secretary-General Ahmad Saadat at the Jerusalem's Magistrate Court in September 2012. (Yoav Ari Dudkevitch/Flash90)
    PFLP Secretary-General Ahmad Saadat at the Jerusalem's Magistrate Court in September 2012. (Yoav Ari Dudkevitch/Flash90)
  • Abdullah Barghouti is taken to Jerusalem Magistrate's Court to testify as part of a US civil lawsuit against the Palestinian leadership, on June 20, 2012. (Noam Moskowitz/Flash90)
    Abdullah Barghouti is taken to Jerusalem Magistrate's Court to testify as part of a US civil lawsuit against the Palestinian leadership, on June 20, 2012. (Noam Moskowitz/Flash90)
  • Ibrahim Hamed about to receive his verdict from the military court, June 27, 2012. (photo credit: Oren Nahshon/Flash90)
    Ibrahim Hamed about to receive his verdict from the military court, June 27, 2012. (photo credit: Oren Nahshon/Flash90)

Hamas is expected to demand the release of several high-profile terrorists, all of whom are serving multiple life sentences in Israeli prisons, as part of a potential truce and hostage release deal with Israel, according to a TV report aired Sunday.

Channel 12 news reported that the list includes names of terrorists behind some of the biggest terror attacks in Israel during the Second Intifada between 2000 and 2005 like Abdullah Barghouti, Abbas Al-Sayed, Ibrahim Hamed, Ahmad Saadat, and Muhammad Arman.

Hamas is seeking the release of the top terrorists as part of a new brewing agreement that could free the remaining hostages in Gaza who were abducted from Israel during the group’s murderous terror rampage on October 7 when thousands of terrorists killed 1,200 people across southern Israel and abducted 253 as hostages.

Hamas released 105 hostages in late November as part of a weeklong truce agreement and in exchange for some 300 Palestinian prisoners, mostly women and underaged suspects.

The terror group has sought a much steeper price for the release of the remaining 132 hostages — 29 of whom have been confirmed dead — including the release of large numbers of Palestinian terror convicts, a permanent ceasefire, a withdrawal of Israeli troops from the Gaza Strip, an end to the blockade, and reconstruction of the enclave. Israel is unlikely to agree to these terms, and has vowed to advance operations in Gaza to dismantle Hamas. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has also said Israel would not be releasing thousands of Palestinian prisoners in a potential deal.

Channel 12 said that high on Hamas’s expected list is Abdullah Barghouti, nicknamed “Hamas’s engineer,” and considered the terror organization’s biggest explosives expert with the possible exception of Yahya Ayyash, who was assassinated in 1996. Barghouti was responsible for planning terror attacks such as the 2003 Sbarro restaurant suicide bombing in Jerusalem that killed 16 people including seven children and a pregnant woman; the Café Moment suicide bombing in 2002 that killed 11; and the 2002 Hebrew University bombing that killed nine people, including five US citizens.

In total, Barghouti was responsible for the murder of 66 Israelis. He was sentenced to 67 life sentences, the most ever given to a Palestinian prisoner.

Also on Hamas’s likely list, according to the report, is Abbas Al-Sayed, the commander of Hamas’s military wing in the West Bank city of Tulkarem. He planned the 2002 Park Hotel suicide bombing in Netanya during Passover, which killed 30 mostly elderly Israelis and injured 140,and became the deadliest Palestinian act of terror during the Second Intifada. Al-Sayed was sentenced to 35 life sentences.

Hamas is also expected to seek to free Ibrahim Hamed, who is considered the most dangerous prisoner currently held by Israel. He was the commander of Hamas’s military wing throughout the West Bank and was behind numerous terror acts. Hamed was ultimately convicted for the murder of 46 civilians and was given 54 life sentences.

Medics attend to those injured after a
Palestinian suicide bomber detonates his explosives in the Park Hotel in Netanya, during the Passover dinner, March 27, 2002. (Flash90)

Ahmad Saadat, the leader of the Marxist-Leninist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), is also expected to be on Hamas’s list. Considered a symbol in Palestinian society, Saadat is the mastermind of the 2001 assassination of Israeli tourism minister Rehavam Ze’evi, and and given 30 life sentences. Last year, he was put into solitary confinement as part of a crackdown on a PFLP terror cell accused of attempting to carry out attacks in the West Bank and which was linked to members in jails.

Muhammad Arman, the leader of Hamas prisoners in Israeli detention, is also being sought for release by the terror group, the TV report said. Arman was also one of the planners behind the Café Moment bombing and the suicide bombing at the Hebrew University. He was given 36 life sentences.

Police and medics surround the scene of a suicide bombing inside Jerusalem’s Sbarro restaurant, Thursday, August 9, 2001. Fifteen people were killed, and 130 injured. (AP/Peter Dejong)

On Friday, Osama Hamdan, a senior Hamas official in Beirut, said the group seeks the release of thousands of Palestinian prisoners being held for acts related to the conflict with Israel, including those serving life sentences.

He also named Saadat, as well as Marwan Barghouti, a terror chief who is a popular Palestinian leader seen as a unifying figure. Barghouti was arrested by Israel in 2002 and is serving five life terms for planning three terror attacks that killed five Israelis during the Second Intifada.

On Sunday, Hamas again appeared set to rebuff a proposed hostage release deal that would include pauses in fighting and an increase in humanitarian aid to Gaza. The outlines of the reported deal were negotiated in Paris last weekend, with mediators from Qatar, Egypt, and the United States.

Several ministers in the government, particularly far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, have expressed opposition to a deal that could see the release of terrorists convicted of murder charges.

Ben Gvir launched an SMS campaign urging citizens to petition the government against such an arrangement.

According to some reports, the outline reached in Paris offers the possibility of a six-week pause in fighting in Gaza for the first time since late November, and the release of all the hostages still in Gaza. Other reports, however, have said the framework provides for the release of only 35 hostages — women, the elderly and the sick — during a 35-day initial truce, with the potential for another week’s pause in fighting during which negotiations could be held on further releases. Still other reports have cited differing terms in the unconfirmed framework deal.

A senior Egyptian official familiar with the discussions on Friday described the proposal to The Associated Press, saying it includes an initial truce of six to eight weeks during which Hamas would release elderly hostages, women and children in return for hundreds of Palestinians jailed by Israel.

Throughout that phase, negotiations would continue on prolonging the truce and releasing more prisoners and hostages. Israel would allow the number of aid trucks entering Gaza to increase to up to 300 daily — from a few dozen currently — and let displaced Gaza residents gradually return to their homes in the north, according to the proposal.

Hamas has been insisting on an end to the war with international guarantees and “a full withdrawal” of Israeli troops from Gaza.

Israel is seeking a temporary truce that will free the hostages before continuing with its war effort to destroy Hamas’s military and governing capabilities in Gaza.

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