Former Israeli hostage negotiator says he's cutting off contact with 'evil' Hamas official

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Gershon Baskin, a former hostage negotiator, said he has cut off communication with his primary contact in Hamas after almost 18 years.

Baskin is the director of Middle East operations with the International Communities Organisation, an advocacy group that works in conflict zones, and former columnist for The Jerusalem Post.

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In a letter he shared on Wednesday, Baskin excoriated Ghazi Hamad, a senior Hamas leader. It begins: “I believe that this will be the last time I ever communicate with you.”

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The two had worked together to help negotiate the release of Gilad Shalit, a former Israeli soldier who was captured by Palestinian fighters from June 2006 to Oct. 2011. Shalit was released in exchange for 1,027 prisoners.

In the letter, Baskin calls Hamad a “coward” and “evil” and asks, “How can you justify the things that your people did?”

The letter goes on to say that Baskin would send Gazans seeking help to Hamad, a former deputy foreign minister of the Hamas government, but can no longer do so.

“They only care about their own people — that’s what so many people in Gaza said to me about you and your people,” Baskin writes.

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“You built tunnels and bunkers for your own people — not 1 single shelter for the people of Gaza. You ran away from Gaza and deserted your people,” the letter continues.

In an interview with WBUR on Thursday, Baskin said Hamad used to deny Hamas fighters killed women and children in the Oct. 7 attack but later said: “‘We did it. We’re gonna continue to do it until we annihilate Israel.’”

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According to a translation from the Middle East Media Research Institute, Hamad told Lebanon’s LBC TV: “Israel is a country that has no place on our land. We must remove that country because it constitutes a security, military and political catastrophe to the Arab and Islamic nation, and must be finished.”

Baskin said he’s known Hamas for about 18 years and has spoken to him more than 1,000 times.

“Obviously something has happened to his mind, or he’s under the influence of people who are more extreme than him in Hamas,” Baskin said.

Speaking to Raidió Teilifís Éireann Ireland’s public broadcaster, Baskin said the Oct. 7 attack has set back Israeli-Palestinian relationship by decades.

“When there was agreement on the Palestinian side, the Arab side to recognize Israel’s right to exist, the Israeli people, not necessarily the government, but the people were ready for big compromises,” he said in the interview, posted earlier today.

“The Israeli public has over the years said we are ready to make those compromises: on Jerusalem, on refugees on the crucial issues, but when there’s no reason to believe that Palestinians wanna live with us in peace then we’re very harsh, and I think that Hamas has taken the Palestinian cause back 75 years,” he added.

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