With Israel under severe pressure to make a deal with Hamas to free some of the 240 hostages in Gaza, a counterterrorism expert warned the United Nations yesterday that Hamas had great hopes of using the situation to spring one of its most murderous leaders from an Israel prison: Ibrahim Hamid, a man serving multiple life sentences.

“They want him. He’s on top of their list to be released,’’ said Mosab Hassan Yousef. Known as the Green Prince, Yousef is the eldest son of a founder of Hamas, but he came to renounce his father’s work and take a different path. Yousef has spent 10 years in Israeli counterterrorism as part of his own mission to see Hamas defeated and dismantled in his lifetime.

“If Hamas is not eradicated in Gaza, it will inspire many groups around the globe,’’ Yousef said. “They will see that a few thousand savages can blackmail the international community, the superpowers and bring them to their knees.”

In yesterday’s remarks, Yousef recalled the eight years he and Israeli authorities labored to capture Ibrahim Hamid, a senior military commander of Hamas who orchestrated a spree of suicide bombings during the second intifada in Israel that killed 46 Israelis and wounded others. These plots included attacks on Zion Square, Café Moment, and Café Hillel in Jerusalem; Sheffield Club in Rishon Lezion; and one at Hebrew University.

Israel finally apprehended him in May 2006. “It took us eight years to capture him, while he was sending suicide bombers every other day,’’ Yousef said. “It was a big nightmare to capture him and you know now what they are doing, why (we have) the hostage situation we have in Gaza. They want him. He’s on the top of their list to be released….They want mass murderers to go back on the street.”

The issue of exchanging prisoners-for-hostages is a delicate but highly charged one in Israel. There’s been an enormous outpouring of support for the families of the hostages and any steps Israeli authorities and their allies might take to free those Hamas dragged back to Gaza on October 7. Forty of the hostages are thought to be children and many of the others are frail, injured, or in need of medical help.

At the same time, Israel is aware that any deal that releases terrorists may undermine Israeli security and feed further violence. Yousef pointed out that Yahya Sinwar, the mastermind of the October 7 atrocities, was himself part of an exchange of more than a thousand prisoners in 2011. Israel acquiesced to that deal for the return of one captive soldier, Gilad Shalit.

That deal, said Yousef, gave Hamas a “taste” of what it could demand. “So, they thought this time if they could bring 200 hostages and more, they can bring the only true democracy in the Middle East to its knees.” He went on: “For those in the intelligence communities, they understood the significance of this. They know Israel cannot release more terrorists because this guy Yahya Sinwar is the mastermind behind the attacks on October 7.”

Sinwar is hardly the only example of a terrorist who spurned his second chance. Hamid, now serving 54 life sentences in Israel, carried out his crimes after being released from a Palestinian Authority prison in 2001. After failing to win his release in 2011 as part of the Shalit deal, Hamas is hoping to try again on this round.

Yousef, for his part, has experienced Hamas’s brutality first-hand, foremost when he was a child. Later, in prison, he witnessed Hamas’s security wing murder and torture hundreds of Palestinian prisoners who were suspected of collaborating with Israel. The abuse included “putting needles under their fingernails, burning plastic on their bodies, and putting cigarettes out on their skin.” As he put it, “I had to die many times in order to transcend this mentality.’’

Of Hamas, he said, “They are all enemies of children and enemies of humanity” and added, “the United Nations [has] failed to condemn them.” Finally, said Yousef, “This is the time to get united because if Israel fails in Gaza, all of us will be next.”

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