Hamas says one of its top commanders has been killed in the war with Israel.
The militant group announced the death of Ahmed al-Ghandour on Sunday, without saying when or where he was killed. He is the highest-ranking member of the group known to have been killed in the war, which was sparked by Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack into Israel.
Al-Ghandour was a high-ranking member of the group’s armed wing and Hamas’ top commander in northern Gaza.
He had survived at least three Israeli attempts to kill him, going back to 2002, according to the Counter Extremism Project, an advocacy group based in Washington.
The tense ceasefire between Israel and Hamas appeared to be back on track early Sunday after the release of a second group of militant-held hostages and Palestinians from Israeli prisons, but the swap followed an hourslong delay that underscored the truce's fragility.
The exchange was delayed Saturday evening after Hamas accused Israel of violating the agreement, which has brought the first significant pause in seven weeks of war marked by the deadliest Israeli-Palestinian violence in decades, vast destruction and displacement across the Gaza Strip, and a hostage crisis that has shaken Israel.
The deal seemed at risk of unraveling until Qatar and Egypt, which mediate with Hamas, announced late Saturday that the obstacles to the exchange had been overcome. The militants released 17 hostages, including 13 Israelis, while Israel freed 39 Palestinian prisoners.
Thousands of people gathered in central Tel Aviv late Saturday to call for the release of all the estimated 240 people captured by Hamas in its Oct. 7 rampage across southern Israel, which ignited the war. They accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of not doing enough to bring them back.
Pressure from the hostages' families and lingering anger over Israel's failure to prevent the attack have sharpened the dilemma facing the country's leaders who seek to eliminate Hamas as a military and governing power while bringing all the captives back safely.
The war has already claimed the lives of more than 1,200 Israelis, mostly civilians killed by Hamas in the initial attack. More than 13,300 Palestinians have been killed, roughly two thirds of them women and minors, according to the Health Ministry in Hamas-ruled Gaza.
The four-day ceasefire, which began Friday, was brokered by Qatar, Egypt and the United States. Hamas is to release at least 50 Israeli hostages, and Israel 150 Palestinian prisoners. All are women and minors.
Israel has said the truce can be extended by an extra day for every additional 10 hostages freed, but has vowed to quickly resume its offensive once it ends. Israel said early Sunday that it had received a new list of hostages slated to be released later in the day, in the third of four scheduled swaps.