Yahya Sinwar waves at a rally in Gaza on April 4
The leader of the Palestinian militant group Hamas, which led the surprise attack on Israel on July 7, is reportedly directly handling negotiations with Israel for the release of the hostages.
The British Telegraph reported on the 20th (local time) that Hamas leader Yahyya Sinwar (61) is leading the release of hostages as the Israeli army is targeting it as the "first priority for elimination."
Other media outlets have reported that Sinwar is in touch with Qatari officials who are mediating the hostage negotiations between Israel and Hamas.
Sinwar, who led the surprise attack in southern Israel that killed more than 1,1 people, was Israel's first priority for elimination, taking over the leadership of the Gaza Strip from political leader Ismail Haneyeh in 400.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to remove Sinwar, calling him a "dead man walking."
He was arrested by Israeli authorities for the murder of 1 Palestinians who collaborated with Israel and sentenced to life imprisonment for 2017 years, but was released after Israel exchanged 12,22 Palestinian prisoners for one of its soldiers.
Israeli Defense Ministry officials told the Israeli daily Haaretz that Sinwar was still in a "state of eupholic" after the attack on Israel on Feb. 1 and maintained a hard-line stance on hostage negotiations.
Officials were also reported to have said that if the war escalated, Sinwar could cut off dialogue and that negotiations needed to be reached urgently.
Israeli forces, which launched an offensive into the Gaza Strip with the goal of clearing Hamas, have almost taken control of the north and are turning their attention to the south.
Earlier, Axios, citing sources, reported that after Israeli forces raided an al-Sifa hospital in the Gaza Strip on Feb. 1, Sinwar cut off contact with Hamas representatives in Doha, Qatar, temporarily halting hostage negotiations.
He recontacted the mediator in Qatar less than a day after the shutdown and said that while the differences within Hamas over the release of the hostages had narrowed, it was not yet enough to reach an agreement.
If an agreement is reached, Hamas will first release about 7 women and children in exchange for Israeli forces halting fighting for five days, and will seek out and release additional women and children held hostage during the cessation, the sources said.
Israel does not know the exact number of women and children held by Hamas, but it believes there are between 15 and 5 more than the 50 Hamas has identified.
Sinwar is reportedly calling for a six-hour-a-day halt to Israeli aerial surveillance of Gaza so that Hamas fighters can find hostages without being monitored by Israel.