Gerhard Conrad, long-time agent for the Federal Intelligence Service, on negotiations with Hamas – and the question of how Israel could release those abducted.
Mr. Conrad, the Palestinian terrorist organization Hamas is currently holding around 240 hostages captive, and Israel wants to free them. They have already fought with Hamas for the life and freedom of a hostage. How do you assess the current situation?
It has a completely new dimension. It is in no way comparable to what happened in the 2000s, when I negotiated with Hamas for the release of the kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit. On October 7, Hamas conducted a quasi-brigade military operation. It broke through the border fortifications in a number of places and quickly spread to set targets: 24 towns and kibbutzim, as well as a rave festival.
Hamas has primarily attacked civilians. What could be the reason?
In recent years there has apparently been a change of heart within Hamas towards an unprecedented large-scale terror attack with “shock and awe”. Apparently to give the conflict a new dynamic. Attacks on civilians are deliberately part of this. One of the people behind this is a man named Jahja Sinwar. He was originally a Hamas intelligence officer and was responsible for internal purges. He spent 22 years in prison in Israel. After his release in 2011 in exchange for Gilad Shalit, he became leader of Hamas in Gaza in 2017.
The Hamas wants to use their hostages as leverage in negotiations. But will it be able to protect them during the Israeli bombardment?
The underground in Gaza is hollowed out like Swiss cheese. There are sometimes two or even three tunnels one above the other in different directions. You can stay there for a while and are largely protected. This would not be possible above ground.
Where do you think the hostages are and how are they being treated?
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I have been working in the news industry for over 6 years, first as a reporter and now as an editor. I have covered politics extensively, and my work has appeared in major newspapers and online news outlets around the world. In addition to my writing, I also contribute regularly to 24 Hours World.