“Approximately 50 people” have died “as a result of” Israel’s bombing campaigns, the Al-Qassam Brigades said on Telegram.
The Daily Beast could not independently verify the claims. The Biden administration said it does not have any way to verify if that number is correct, White House National Security Council Coordinator John Kirby told reporters on Thursday.
The claim is part of a manipulative pressure campaign to stop Israeli attacks on the militant group, an Israeli official told The Daily Beast.
“Hamas is trying to manipulate the world by creating a false narrative in order to stop Israel's attacks on their terror infrastructure,” the official told The Daily Beast. “Regardless of what Hamas claims, any harm done to hostages is Hamas’s responsibility and they will be held accountable. Israel will continue to demand that Hamas release all hostages immediately and unconditionally.”
The claim comes as U.S. officials have made a delicate dance of trying to defend Israel's bombing campaign inside Gaza while also trying to save hostages from Israel's own wrath and alleviate the humanitarian situation in the enclave. Efforts to secure the release of hostages, some of which are Americans, continue behind the scenes.
Hamas has already released four hostages from Gaza on two separate occasions, with hundreds of families awaiting more news.
The Biden administration has been lobbying Israel to conduct a “humanitarian pause” in order to allow more aid into Gaza, which is facing a dire humanitarian situation as fuel supplies run low and hospitals are well past the breaking point. Israeli officials have reportedly agreed to delay a planned ground invasion of Gaza in order to allow for aid deliveries and maintain diplomatic efforts to secure hostages’ release.
The Biden administration has acknowledged that Israel’s bombing inside Gaza is killing civilians. Officials have said that U.S. and Israeli intelligence communities are still working to determine where hostages are being held exactly, a gap in knowledge which could complicate efforts to avoid killing them.
Last Friday, the Israeli Defense Forces stated that the “majority” of the hostages are believed to be alive. Israel has said that Hamas is holding over 220 hostages.
Hamas is sending signals that hostages are still alive. A delegation from Hamas held meetings in Moscow on Thursday, where Russians officials pushed for the release of Russian citizens held hostage and the safe evacuation of Russian citizens from Gaza, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said, according to a TASS report. Senior Hamas member Abu Marzouk allegedly participated in the meeting.
Although the Biden Administration has urged caution around trusting Hamas-reported numbers of deaths civilian deaths in Gaza, it is clear that Israel’s continued attacks on Gaza are killing civilians caught in the crosshairs.
Israeli officials continue to claim that they are urging civilians move out of the northern region of Gaza to seek safety in the South, but Israel continues to launch strikes into South Gaza, killing civilians nonetheless.
Kirby declined to say whether Israel is being targeted or strategic enough in its operations.
“They have a right and a responsibility to go after Hamas after what happened on October 7. And we have said… they need to be careful about causing civilian casualties and to be targeting Hamas leaders in a way that minimizes risk to civilians and collateral damage,” Kirby told reporters Thursday.