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Hostage rescue, news and more

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In leaks published by WSJ, Hamas leader says: “Israelis are where we want them”

Hamas leader Yahya Shinwar in Gaza City in 2022. (Credit: MAHMUD HAMS/AFP via Getty Images)

According to leaks accessed by the Wall Street Journal, Hamas military chief Yahya Shinwar recently boasted that he had an advantage over the Israelis in the Gaza conflict.

As Sinwar recently told Hamas political leaders in the Gulf state of Doha, “the Israelis are where we want them,” according to one report. The date of the message is unclear, but it suggests that Sinwar is pressing for the conflict to continue.

The WSJ said health officials were able to access dozens of messages Shinwar had sent to cease-fire negotiators in hiding since the Oct. 7 attack on Israel that sparked a devastating war in Gaza that killed more than 37,000 people and destroyed most of the area.

Sinwar reportedly sent messages to Hamas leaders — some of whom are in Doha — showing he was willing to accept civilian casualties as a means to an end.

As Israel prepares to enter Rafah ahead of the Muslim month of Ramadan in February, Sinwar urged WSJ Hamas political leaders not to make concessions and instead to end the war permanently.

In a message to Hamas political leaders, Shinwar said, “Israel’s attack on Rafah will not be a walk in the park.”

CNN has not seen the news reported by the WSJ and cannot confirm the authenticity of the communications.

Mediators are awaiting Hamas’ response to an Israeli proposal made by President Biden last month aimed at freeing hostages and a ceasefire in Gaza.

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Blinken made it clear that while the U.S. will put pressure on those with influence over Hamas, the U.S. believes the group’s leader, Yahya Shinwar, is the ultimate decision-maker.

“I think there are influencers, but influence is one thing and decision-making is another. I don’t think anyone is really the decision-maker except the Hamas leaders in Gaza,” Blinken added: “That’s what we’re waiting for.”

Blinken said Hamas’ response to the proposal would reveal the group’s priorities.

“We’re waiting for Hamas’ response, which will tell us a lot about what they want, what they’re looking for and who they care about,” Blinken said. “Do you care about a guy who could be safe now… I don’t know, 10 stories underground somewhere in Gaza while the people he claims to represent continue to suffer at the crosshairs of his own making.” Or will you do whatever it takes to take this to a better place, to end people’s suffering, and to bring real security to Israelis and Palestinians?”

In initial messages to the ceasefire negotiators, Sinwar was “shocked” by the brutality of the October 7 attack on Israel.

“Things have gotten out of control,” Sinwar said in one of his messages, according to the WSJ, adding that he was “referring to gangs that are taking civilians and children hostage.”

“People got caught up in this and it shouldn’t have happened,” he added.

A US-designated terrorist has expressed his displeasure that Hamas’s political leaders were not consulted for a meeting with other Palestinian factions, calling it “shameful and outrageous”.

“Until the militants stand still and we do not lose the war, such contacts must cease immediately,” he said. “We have the ability to continue fighting for months,” he said.

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He compared the battle in Gaza to the 7th century Battle of Karbala, Iraq, a monumental moment in Islamic history in which the Prophet Muhammad’s grandson was killed. “We must continue on the same path we started,” Sinwar wrote. “Or it will be a new Karbala.”