‘We have the Israelis right where we want them, we have the upper hand’ - Hamas leader reportedly says in leaked messages

Tuesday, June 11, 2024 - The military leader of Hamas, Yahya Sinwar, has stated that the Palestinian militant group has the upper hand over Israel in the war in Gaza, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal, citing leaked messages the journal said it had seen.

“We have the Israelis right where we want them,” Sinwar told Hamas’ political leadership in Qatar recently, according to one of the messages, the WSJ reported. The date of the message isn’t clear but suggests that Sinwar wants the war to continue.

The WSJ said it saw dozens of messages sent to ceasefire negotiators from Sinwar, who has been in hiding since the October 7 attack on Israel which sparked a devastating war on Gaza, killing more than 37,000 people in the enclave, according to Gaza health authorities, and leaving much of the Gaza strip destroyed.

The WSJ reported that in one message Sinwar said civilian deaths in previous conflicts were “necessary sacrifices,” citing past independence-related wars in places like Algeria.

As Israel prepared to enter Rafah before the Muslim month of Ramadan in February, the WSJ alleged Sinwar urged Hamas’ political leaders not to make concessions and instead push for a permanent end to the war.

“Israel’s journey in Rafah won’t be a walk in the park,” Sinwar allegedly said in a message to the Hamas political leadership.

Commenting on the WSJ report, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said on X: “Sinwar profits off the deaths of Gazan civilians, calling them “necessary sacrifices” in order to urge international pressure on Israel’s efforts to eliminate his terrorist organization.”

Mediators are waiting for a Hamas response to an Israeli proposal presented by US President Joe Biden last month which aims to release the hostages in Gaza and implement a ceasefire there.

While the US is pushing those who have sway over Hamas to pressure the group to accept the deal, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also made it clear that the US believes that the group’s leader, Sinwar, is the ultimate decision-maker.

“I think there are there those who have influenced, but influence is one thing, actually getting a decision made is the is another thing. I don’t think anyone other than the Hamas leadership in Gaza actually are the ones who can make decisions,” Blinken said, adding that “that is what we are waiting on.”

Blinken said that Hamas’ answer to the proposal will reveal the group’s priorities.

“We await the answer from Hamas in and that will speak volumes about what they want, what they’re looking for, who they’re looking after,” Blinken said. “Are they looking after one guy who may be for now safe … I don’t know, 10 stories underground somewhere in Gaza, while the people that he purports to represent continue to suffer in a crossfire of his own making? Or will he do what’s necessary to actually move this to a better place, to help end the suffering of people to help bring real security to Israelis and Palestinians alike.”

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