“He’s a dead man.” The chief spokesman of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), Richard Hecht, placed Yahya Sinwar in the Army’s crosshairs after the surprise attack launched by Hamas from the Gaza Strip on October 7. An unprecedented massacre for Israel, its 9/11, which left more than 1,300 dead and around 250 hostages in the hands of the organization that controls Gaza, the majority civilians, with whom it intends to negotiate a prisoner exchange in the run-up to the ground incursion by Israeli forces. «In the end, the face of evil is Yahya Sinwar. “He is the brain behind all this,” said the IDF lieutenant colonel. For this reason, one of the first Israeli missiles over Gaza was directed at his private residence in the city of Khan Younis, local press reported.
Born precisely in Khan Yunis six decades ago, Sinwar has governed the Strip since 2017. He was elected prime minister to replace Ismail Haniyeh, promoted to head of the Hamas politburo. The former head of the DFI, Gadi Eizenkota member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s war cabinet, said then that his appointment would erase with a stroke the differences that may exist between the political arm and the military arm of a group that, in addition to Israel, is considered terrorist by the United States, the Union European and United Kingdom.
The explanation is simple. Sinwar is one of the first members of Hamas as a local branch of the Muslim Brotherhood after the creation of the group in the heat of the first intifada of 1987. He founded the “Majd”, the first armed faction of the organization, a kind of secret police that He persecuted, interrogated and tortured those suspected of collaborating with Israel. It wouldn’t take him long to fall under the radar of the Israeli security forces. His third and last arrest took place in 1988. He would end up being sentenced by the Hebrew Justice to four life sentences for the murder of two Israeli soldiers.
He remained in prison for two decades, but his lucky break came in 2011. Israel then approved the exchange of 1,100 Palestinian prisoners for one of its soldiers, Gilad Shalit, captured precisely by Hamas in a ground raid on Gaza five years earlier. Yahya Sinwar’s name appeared on the list of those released, so he returned to Gaza to lead the military wing of Hamas, the Al Qassam Brigades, which carried out last Saturday’s attack against Israel, today led by commander Mohamed Deif, another of the masterminds of the so-called “Operation Al Aqsa Storm.” It was his role before making the leap to the political management of the enclave.
Raz Zimmt, however, believes that Sinwar “is not the main objective” of the IDF ground operation. “The operation seeks to hit Hamas commanders, the high command,” acknowledges the analyst and expert on Iran from the Institute of National Security Studies (INSS) and Tel Aviv University. “But not only to the senior leadership, but to all the leadership, to ensure that no one can assume control of the organization and rehabilitate itself after the war.”
“That includes the political leadership of Hamas, it includes Sinwar. But Sinwar is far from the Hamas leadership,” Zimmt emphasizes in a telephone conversation with LA RAZÓN. The leadership of the Palestinian militant organization has four heads. It is distributed between Gaza, the West Bank, Israeli prisons and areas outside the Palestinian territories. Since taking political control of the Strip, Sinwar has distanced himself from the members of the politburo who do not reside in the punished Gaza, like Haniyeh, but in Beirut or Qatar.
Sinwar maintains, however, the support of the political arm of Hamas and the organization’s main supporters: Iran and Qatar. «When talking about Iranian support, it is mainly about weapons, know-how, technology, training… the most military support is provided by Iran. While Qatar is the main financial support of Hamas in recent years,” explains Zimmt. “Sinwar maintains good relations with the Iranians, but they are coordinating their efforts not only with Sinwar, but with other elements of the Hamas leadership, mainly Haniyeh.”