Hamas chief reportedly looks forward to high civilian death toll in Rafah

The terror chief said the deaths of Gazans would ‘increase pressure on Israel’, Wall Street Journal has reported


Yahya Sinwar, head of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, has reportedly told senior Hamas officials in Qatar "not to worry" about an Israeli siege in Rafah. (Photo by MAHMUD HAMS/AFP via Getty Images)

Hamas chief Yahya Sinwar has sent a message to exiled members of the terror group saying he would welcome an Israeli assault on Rafah because the high number of civilian casualties would intensify worldwide pressure on Israel, a report from the Wall Street Journal said on Thursday.

Sinwar, the mastermind behind the brutal October 7 attacks, reportedly sent the message by courier to his colleagues in Qatar. 

He allegedly also told them not to worry because Hamas’ Al-Qassam Brigades were doing well and prepared for Israel to strike in Rafah.

The letter from Sinwar, delivered to Hamas senior leadership earlier this month, reportedly argued that Hamas has the upper hand despite suffering “tactical losses” and the terrorist group’s four battalions in Rafah have been primed for an Israeli ground assault.

The message belies vehement calls for a ceasefire from around the world. On Monday the New York Times reported that Hamas rejected a ceasefire proposal just one day after President Biden indicated that a peace agreement could be imminent. Hamas officials said on Tuesday that there had been “no breakthrough” in the mediated talks with Israel.

“We are not interested in engaging with what’s been floated, because it does not fulfill our demands,” Hamas official Ahmad Abdelhadi said in a televised interview with al-Mayadeen, a Lebanese broadcaster, on Tuesday.

According to WSJ, Hamas has altered its tactics since the temporary ceasefire in November. Commanded by Sinwar’s brother Mohammed, Hamas fighters are now relying on small-scale ambushes and psychological tactics like using recorded voices of hostages to lure Israeli soldiers into traps. The ultimate goal, WSJ has reported, is to outlast Israeli firepower and “emerge from the rubble of Gaza” victorious.

“It’s a very sound tactical logic,” Eyal Berelovich, a civilian analyst for Israel’s armed forces and a military historian at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University, told WSJ. “Their strategic goal is to survive.”

But the terrorist group appears to show little concern for the civilian cost of such tactics. Roughly 30,000 Gazan civilians have been killed in Israel’s war efforts, according to the Hamas-run health authorities, though Israeli officials have said that over a third of those killed were Hamas fighters.

The IDF said it has lost 242 soldiers in Gaza, as well as the over 300 who were killed on October 7.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has pledged to continue war efforts in Israel until “total victory” is achieved, meaning the eradication of Hamas as an authority in Gaza and the release of all remaining hostages. According to WSJ, Israeli soldiers have expressed concern over the lack of concrete plans to achieve such a victory, and one soldier in Khan Younis compared fighting Hamas to "a game of whack-a-mole.”

Brig. Gen. Dan Goldfus, commander of the Israeli 98th Division, told WSJ: “Once they go overground, they’re no big challenge. The challenge is to flush them out from underground.”

Sinwar was believed to be hiding in the tunnels beneath his home town of Khan Younis but Israeli officials are “no longer sure.” They estimate that Hamas has built over 350 miles of tunnels under Gaza, the scale of which distinguishes this battle from any other battle with Islamist terrorist groups throughout history, military analysts told WSJ.

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