Hamas official says willing to free 40 hostages in 1st truce phase, claims Sinwar briefly came out of tunnels

Gianluca Pacchiani is the Arab affairs reporter for The Times of Israel

Hamas's Gaza Strip leader Yahya Sinwar in a tunnel in southern Gaza's Khan Younis, October 10, 2023 (IDF Spokesman)
Hamas's Gaza Strip leader Yahya Sinwar in a tunnel in southern Gaza's Khan Younis, October 10, 2023 (IDF Spokesman)

A senior Hamas source rejects claims that recently circulated according to which the terror group is now willing to release fewer than 20 hostages in the first phase of a truce with Israel.

The alleged offer contradicted previous reports that the terror group would free 40 living Israeli hostages in the first phase of a temporary ceasefire agreement discussed in Cairo.

The Hamas source quoted by London-based Arabic paper Al-Araby Al-Jadeed also denies speculation that there are no more than 20 hostages alive, claiming that there are at least 30 high-ranking members of Israeli security forces in the group’s hands.

There are no living high-ranking Israelis held by Hamas (there is one high-ranking deceased officer — Col. Asaf Hamami). Hamas also refers to all Israeli men who are of fighting age, between 18 and 50, as members of security forces, regardless of their status.

“It is not possible, of course, to accurately determine the number of living prisoners, but what is certain is that it is higher than the numbers being circulated in the Hebrew media,” the source says.

He claims falsely that Hamas holds about 30 “generals and Shin Bet officers” captured on October 7, saying they are being held in “highly secured locations” and that it is “impossible to get to them.”

The source also asserts that Hamas’s Gaza leader Yahya Sinwar, who has been hunkering down in tunnels for months and is Israel’s number one target, recently emerged from the underground to inspect areas where the terror group clashed with the IDF, and that he has held talks with Hamas’s leaders abroad to provide them “field reports” of the “strength and solidity” of the terror group. The report implies that Sinwar comes out intermittently and then goes back underground.

In a separate interview with the Dubai-based Asharq News, Hamas official Khalil al-Hayya claims the terror group has shown “flexibility” in the Cairo negotiations, reducing the number of Palestinian prisoners it demands to free in exchange for every Israeli “soldier” (male or female) from 500 to 50.

Al-Hayya further notes that Hamas would not be opposed at this stage to the creation of a Palestinian state along the 1967 borders comprising the West Bank and Gaza, including the return of Palestinian refugees, but stresses that the agreement would only be temporary and insists on the Palestinians’ “historic right to all Palestinian lands.”

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