Hamas leader believes civilian deaths are ‘necessary sacrifices’ in Israeli war, leaked letters show

Yahya Sinwar appears more interested in cementing his own position than securing peace in Gaza
Yahya Sinwar appears more interested in cementing his own position than securing peace in Gaza

The mastermind behind Hamas’s Oct 7 attacks on Israel is stalling ceasefire talks and using the mounting Palestinian death toll to his advantage, leaked messages show.

Correspondence between Yahya Sinwar, the military leader of the terror group, and officials tasked with brokering a ceasefire with Qatari and Egyptian officials indicate he is more interested in securing his own future than peace.

“We have the Israelis right where we want them,” Mr Sinwar said in one of dozens of messages to ceasefire negotiators obtained by The Wall Street Journal (WSJ).

The messages display a calculated disregard for human life and a belief on the part of Mr Sinwar that Israel has more to lose from the eight-month war than Hamas.

More than 37,000 people, mainly civilians, have been killed in Gaza since the start of the war, according to Hamas-controlled health authorities. The number of combatants killed remains unknown.

The messages revealed by the WSJ appear to support the view that Mr Sinwar is willing to put his political objectives above the preservation of human lives.

In one message to Hamas leaders in Doha, he cites civilian losses in national-liberation conflicts in places such as Algeria, where hundreds of thousands of people died fighting for independence from France, saying, “these are necessary sacrifices”.

In a separate letter, sent on April 11 to Ismail Haniyeh, a Hamas political leader, whose three sons were killed in an Israeli air strike, Mr Sinwar claimed their deaths and those of other Palestinians would “infuse life into the veins of this nation, prompting it to rise to its glory and honour”.

A recent analysis appears to show a decline in the death rate of women and children being killed from above 60 per cent in October to below 40 per cent in April, coinciding with a change in Israeli battlefield tactics.

However, the reported deaths of at least 274 Palestinians in the Nuseirat refugee camp during the rescue of four Israeli hostages on Saturday has fuelled international anger about Israel’s handling of the war and whether it is doing enough to protect civilians.

In response, the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) condemned the “cruel and cynical” tactics of Hamas’s leadership to endanger the local population by hiding hostages among them.

Hamas has yet to officially respond to a US-backed Israeli ceasefire proposal transmitted to Qatar two weeks ago which would first allow for a six-week truce to exchange some of the remaining 120 Israeli hostages for more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners.

It is understood there is a split between the group’s political leadership which would be open to the six-week truce and the military leadership which wants a full ceasefire.

The three-stage peace deal, which sets out a framework for the eventual release of all hostages, a permanent ceasefire and full Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, has stalled over the terms of how to proceed after the first phase and bring an eventual end to the war.

The fine details of how the war ends could determine the political future of the Israeli and Hamas leadership and, for Mr Sinwar, possibly his physical survival.

During a trip to Israel on Monday, Antony Blinken, the US secretary of state, urged top officials to accept and implement a plan for post-war Gaza. He also pushed for more international pressure on Hamas to agree to a ceasefire proposal.

“My message to governments and people throughout the region is this: If you want to alleviate the terrible suffering in Gaza, to get all the hostages home, to put Israelis and Palestinians on the path to durable peace — then press Hamas to say yes to the ceasefire,” he said in a statement on social media.