June 20, 2024

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How Yahya Sinwar deceived Israel for decades

2 min read

Decades before he orchestrated the October 7 attacks by Hamas on Israel, Yahya Sinwar was jailed by an Israeli military tribunal for multiple murders. His response: to study Hebrew.

“[Vladimir] Jabotinsky and [Menachem] Begin and [Yitzhak] Rabin — he read all the books that came out about prominent Israeli figures,” said Micha Kobi, who interrogated Sinwar for the Shin Bet intelligence service. “He learned us from the bottom all the way to the top.”

Then, fifteen years into his sentence, he deployed his pitch perfect Hebrew in an Israeli television interview. Rather than war, he urged the Israeli public to support a hudna, or truce, with the Hamas militant group.

“We understand that Israel sits on 200 nuclear warheads and it has the most advanced . . . air force in the region. We know that we don’t have the ability to dismantle Israel,” said the Palestinian, wearing a crimson jumper.

Yet for all that, Sinwar, 61, is today Israel’s most wanted man; Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, refers to him as a “dead man walking”. The leader of the Hamas militant group in Gaza is deemed the single figure most responsible for the surprise attack on October 7 that killed more than 1,400 Israelis, including women, children and the elderly.

His elimination is the primary objective of the escalating Israeli campaign to “destroy” Hamas. Palestinian officials say some 9,770 people have been killed in Gaza since Israel began its retaliation for the assault, destroying large areas of the Hamas-controlled territory in attacks from land, air and sea.

Yahya Sinwar has become an almost mythical figure for Palestinians, particularly within Gaza © Mohammed Talatene/picture-alliance/dpa/AP

Ahead of the Hamas incursion, Israel had close to 40 years of experience dealing with Sinwar, an intense and violent man with a wiry frame and close-cropped hair. Yet that accumulated knowledge, in recent years, only lulled Israel’s security chiefs into a…

2023-11-05 16:00:56

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