For Sinwar, Gaza’s civilians are cannon fodder
Hamas chief in Gaza Yahya Sinwar holds a Palestinian child dressed as a Hamas terrorist during a rally in Gaza City, May 24, 2021.
Photo: Atia Mohammed/Flash90

Messages from the Hamas leader in Gaza reviewed by The Wall Street Journal lay bare his strategy of weaponizing noncombatants against Israel.

By David Isaac
June 11, 2024

Messages sent to mediators by Hamas leader in Gaza Yahya Sinwar show that as far as he’s concerned, the more civilians die in Gaza the better.

He sees such deaths as working “to his advantage,” The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday.

The Journal reviewed “dozens of messages” Sinwar sent to ceasefire negotiators and others in which “he’s shown a cold disregard for human life and made clear he believes Israel has more to lose from the war than Hamas.”

“We have the Israelis right where we want them,” said Sinwar in a message sent recently to Hamas officials looking to make an agreement via Qatari and Egyptian mediators.

In one message to Hamas leaders in Doha, the Hamas leader, citing civilian deaths in national-liberation conflicts in Algeria, said, “these are necessary sacrifices.”

In an April 11 letter, he told Hamas political leader Ismail Haniyeh, who lost three sons to an Israeli airstrike during the war, that their deaths would “infuse life into the veins of this nation, prompting it to rise to its glory and honor.”

Sinwar’s strategy appears to be to outlast Israel, win a permanent cease-fire and “declare a historic victory,” the Journal reported.

If a ceasefire isn’t reached, Sinwar calculates that Israel still loses as it will have no choice but to rule the Gaza Strip, only to be bogged down in a Hamas-led insurgency.

He was thinking along these lines at least six years ago, telling a journalist in 2018, “For Netanyahu, a victory would be even worse than a defeat.”

During that time, Hamas had organized the “March of Return” protests along the Gaza border, forcing Israeli soldiers to fire on demonstrators who threatened to breach the security barrier.

“We make the headlines only with blood,” Sinwar said in the interview. “No blood, no news.”

In February, during a push for a ceasefire, Sinwar sent a message to Hamas officials telling them to avoid concessions and push for permanently ending the war as “high civilian casualties” would place global pressure on Israel, the Journal reported.

Sinwar’s calculations so far have proven correct as western countries, including Israel’s closest ally, the United States, have largely condemned Israel over the war’s civilian death toll.

U.S. President Joe Biden has been pushing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for a permanent ceasefire. Netanyahu has so far resisted.

On Monday, the United Nations Security Council passed a U.S.-drafted resolution for a permanent ceasefire in Gaza and the immediate release of the remaining Israeli hostages.

Israel representative to the United Nations Reut Shapir Ben-Naftaly said at the vote that it was the “genocidal jihadists who started this war” and “blame must be placed where it belongs.” Yet, Hamas has never been held responsible, she added.

She stressed that Israel will free the hostages and dismantle Hamas’s terrorist capabilities. “Once these goals are met, the war will end,” she said. 

In an Oct. 30 address to the nation, Netanyahu warned western nations of the dangers of failing to hold Hamas to account for its cynical use of civilian casualties.

Hamas must be held “responsible for the double war crime it commits every day by deliberately targeting Israeli civilians while using Palestinians civilians as human shields,” he said.

“Because as long as Hamas’s use of Palestinian human shields results in the international community blaming Israel, Hamas will continue to use it as a tool of terror, and so will others,” he said.

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