Hamas’s Sinwar said to laud high civilian death toll in Gaza as ‘necessary sacrifice’

Wall Street Journal report details messages to interlocutors in which Gazan terror chief exalts Palestinian deaths as helping increase pressure on Israel

Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip Yahya Sinwar speaks during a rally marking Al-Quds (Jerusalem) Day, in Gaza City, April 14, 2023. (Mohammed Abed/AFP)
Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip Yahya Sinwar speaks during a rally marking Al-Quds (Jerusalem) Day, in Gaza City, April 14, 2023. (Mohammed Abed/AFP)

Hamas chief Yahya Sinwar has insisted that civilian bloodshed in Gaza is a necessary sacrifice that will lead to the liberation of Palestine, according to a report published late Monday, bolstering accusations that the terror group has intentionally put its people in harm’s way over the last eight months of devastating war in Gaza.

In dozens of messages sent over several months and acquired by The Wall Street Journal, Sinwar communicated to Hamas compatriots and mediating parties alike that he had no interest in pursuing a ceasefire with Israel, as he believed that the growing civilian death toll would serve to benefit Hamas more than a cessation of fighting would.

Hamas’s health authorities in Gaza claim that over 37,000 people have been killed by Israel since war broke out with the terror group’s onslaught in southern Israel on October 7. The toll, which cannot be verified and which includes both combatants and civilians, has nonetheless served to ratchet up anti-Israel sentiment globally as well as support for Palestinian statehood.

One message said to have been sent by Sinwar to the Hamas leadership in Doha compared the civilian losses in Gaza to those seen in the Algerian War of Independence, saying simply that “these are necessary sacrifices.”

The brutal 1954-1962 Algerian War of Independence saw atrocities committed on both sides with Algerian historians putting the death toll at 1.5 million Algerian victims while French historians say around 400,000 people from both sides were killed.

Other messages sent to the exiled Hamas leaders in Qatar indicated that Sinwar’s lack of sympathy extended beyond civilian casualties to the Hamas leadership itself.

In an exchange with Hamas political leader Ismail Haniyeh, after three of his sons and four of his grandchildren were killed in an airstrike in northern Gaza, Sinwar told him that their deaths, along with the deaths of other Gazans, would “infuse life into the veins of this nation, prompting it to rise to its glory and honor.”

Palestinians waiting for aid trucks to cross in central Gaza Strip, May 19, 2024. (Abdel Kareem Hana/AP)

Israel has faced heavy international criticism over the level of reported civilian casualties in Gaza. It has been questioned whether it is doing enough to protect vulnerable populations in the war-torn Strip.

Jerusalem vehemently denies the charges, saying it is taking unprecedented measures to reduce civilian casualties, and that the combatant-to-civilian ratio is relatively low, even according to the unverified figures issued by Hamas-run authorities.

It has accused Hamas of using civilians as human shields and embedding fighters in protected civilian spaces such as hospitals and shelters in hopes of either maintaining cover or inviting deadly strikes liable to damage Israel’s international standing.

Israel says it has killed at least 15,000 Hamas-led fighters inside Gaza, as well as 1,000 terrorists inside Israel on October 7 as they rampaged through communities, killing 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and kidnapping 251.

In the messages sent by Sinwar throughout the war, according to the report, he railed against the possibility of halting fighting as part of a ceasefire agreement, counseling that more would be accomplished by continuing to allow Gaza to be bombarded.

Two months into the war in early December, when the reported death toll in Gaza still hovered below the 20,000 mark, Sinwar reportedly caught wind of meetings being held by the terror group’s political leadership and other Palestinian factions to discuss plans for postwar Gaza.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh (third right), and top official Khalem Mashaal (second right), are seen meeting with Fatah’s Nasser al-Qudwa (second left) and Samir al-Mashrawi (third left) in Qatar on November 22, 2023. (Courtesy)

In a message, Sinwar insisted that the terror group had the ability “to continue fighting for months,” and slammed the meetings as “shameful and outrageous.”

“As long as fighters are still standing and we have not lost the war, such contacts should immediately be terminated,” he told them.

Then in February, as Israel began to make preparations to enter Rafah and take on Hamas’s four remaining battalions, mediators made a last-ditch attempt to implement a temporary truce during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Displaced Palestinians wait to offer a special morning prayer to start the Eid al-Fitr festival, marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan, outside a destroyed mosque in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, on April 10, 2024. (AFP)

The efforts came to naught, however, and according to The Wall Street Journal, this was due in no small part to Sinwar, who pressed Hamas leaders in Qatar not to agree to any temporary pauses in the fighting.

The higher the civilian death toll, the more pressure would be put on Israel, he said.

“Israel’s journey in Rafah won’t be a walk in the park,” he also reportedly said.

“We have the Israelis right where we want them,” Sinwar told other Hamas leaders recently, according to the Journal.

Publicly, Hamas’s political leadership has claimed to be interested in a ceasefire and a deal swapping hostages for Palestinian prisoners, but has refused to agree to any proposal that does not include a permanent ceasefire, withdrawal of Israel troops and an end to Israeli restrictions on goods entering Gaza.

Early in the war Sinwar is said to have claimed to ceasefire negotiators that “Things went out of control” on October 7. The Wall Street Journal said he was “referring to gangs taking civilian women and children as hostages.” “People got caught up in this, and that should not have happened,” he reportedly added. The Journal said, “This became a talking point for Hamas to explain away the Oct. 7 civilian toll.”

In recent messages to “allies,” the Journal said, Sinwar indicated that “he’s willing to die in the fighting.” In one, he compared the war to a 7th-century battle in Karbala, Iraq, where the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad was killed. “We have to move forward on the same path we started,” Sinwar reportedly wrote. “Or let it be a new Karbala.”

On Monday, Hamas welcomed a UN Security Council resolution backed by the US that endorses Israel’s latest ceasefire-for-hostages proposal, but has yet to accept the offer.

Visiting Israel, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the Hamas statement was “a hopeful sign” but definitive word was still needed from the Hamas leadership inside Israeli-besieged Gaza. “That’s what counts, and that’s what we don’t have yet.”

The deal, put forward by Israel last month and presented by US President Joe Biden, envisions three phases of negotiations, beginning with a six-week truce during which the remaining living female, elderly and sick hostages would be released.

Sinwar was quoted by The Wall Street Journal as having told Arab mediators last week that Hamas would not budge from its demand for a permanent ceasefire, and would not agree to disarm as part of any deal.

“Hamas will not surrender its guns or sign a proposal that asks for that,” he was quoted saying.

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