Israel is determined to kill Hamas’s leaders “in every location” in the world, including Qatar, Turkey, and Lebanon, even if it takes many years, Shin Bet chief Ronen Bar said in recordings revealed Sunday.
“In every location, in Gaza, in the West Bank, in Lebanon, in Turkey, in Qatar, everyone,” he said in recordings aired by the Kan public broadcaster Sunday evening. “It will take a few years, but we will be there in order to do it.”
“The cabinet set a goal for us, to take out Hamas. And we are determined to do it, this is our Munich,” he could be heard saying in the recordings, referencing the years-long Israeli operation to assassinate the terrorists responsible for the 1972 Munich Olympics attack that killed 11 Israelis.
Hamas reportedly responded that it is unfazed by the threats and that for Israel to carry them out would be a violation of allied countries’ sovereignty.
War erupted on October 7 when some 3,000 terrorists led by Hamas burst through the border from the Gaza Strip and rampaged through southern regions, slaughtering over 1,200 people in Israel, mostly civilians, massacred amid brutal atrocities. At least 240 people of all ages, including small children and the elderly, were abducted and taken hostage in Gaza.
In the recording, Bar admitted that his intelligence agency failed in its mission ahead of the Hamas onslaught, but the Shin Bet “is now on an upward trend,” and already learning the lessons of the failures of that day and putting them into operation.
Bar said the threats against Israel over the past year “are unprecedented,” and many of them are unknown to the public. “Our duty is to ensure security, to give a sense of security to the citizens of Israel. Unfortunately, we failed to do this on October 7,” he said.
“Over the past year, even before the latest events, the scale of threats to Israel has been unprecedented. But even in the latter case, the main thing is hidden from view. A lot of things are hiding under the surface,” he said.
Last week, The Wall Street Journal reported that Israel is planning to hunt down Hamas leaders around the world once it shifts away from fighting the group in Gaza.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ordered spy agencies to draw up plans to assassinate the group’s top leaders outside of Gaza, who live in Turkey, Qatar, and elsewhere, the paper reported, citing Israeli officials.
According to the report, some called for Israel to immediately assassinate Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal, who lives in Doha, and others following the October 7 attack. However, such actions on Qatari or Turkish soil could have strained or torpedoed diplomatic efforts to free hostages, and the idea was pushed off.
An eventual week-long truce secured the release of dozens of Israeli women and children held hostage in exchange for Palestinian security prisoners held in Israel. Though it could have been extended, Hamas violated the truce on Friday and fighting resumed.
Kan reported that Hamas responded to Bar’s remarks, saying that the threats to assassinate its leaders “reflect the political and military crisis the enemy is in due to the resilience of the Palestinian people and the courageous resistance forces.”
It said the threats “do not frighten the organization’s leaders. They constitute a blatant violation of the sovereignty of the ‘sister countries,’ which the senior officials of the enemy mentioned, and constitute a direct harm to the security of these countries.”
Netanyahu hinted at Israel’s plans for assassinations abroad in an address in late November, to the ire of some, who preferred to keep the future campaign under wraps, according to the WSJ.
The paper also reported that Israel is looking into the possibility of expelling lower-level Hamas fighters from Gaza to shorten the war.
In the 1970s, Israel embarked on a campaign to assassinate Palestinian terrorists involved in the Munich Olympics massacre. The efforts reportedly continued for over 20 years. Several Palestinian figures were killed, although there are conflicting claims on how many of them were directly involved in the massacre. The operation was depicted in the 1986 film “Sword of Gideon,” and Steven Spielberg’s 2005 movie “Munich.”
Aside from possible assassination abroad, the Mossad and Shin Bet have reportedly formed a special operations center tasked with tracking down and killing members of the Hamas commando unit that led the October 7 attacks.
According to the Ynet news site, the unit will be named after the World War I-era Jewish underground organization “Nili,” an acronym for a Hebrew phrase that translates as “the Eternal One of Israel will not lie.”
Israel has already announced the killing of several top Hamas commanders in Gaza during the fighting, though the group’s local leader Yahya Sinwar and his deputies remain at large.