The hunt for Yahya al-Sinwar

The US and Israel are obsessed with eliminating Hamas’ Gaza Strip leader

Hardly a day passes without the US and Israeli media informing us that they’re hot on the trail of Hamas’ leader in the Gaza Strip Yahya al-Sinwar: that they have information about his whereabouts, and are close to reaching and assassinating or arresting him.

There has been plenty of news like this over the past five months. One day we’re told Sinwar is hiding underground in Khan Younis. Then we’re told a video was found of him and his family in a tunnel, and that he was identified by his ears because he was filmed from behind.

Most of these stories proved to be fake. They were intended to rehabilitate the reputation and professed omnipotence of Israel’s intelligence services which were trashed by the historic al-Aqsa Flood operation on October 7 last year.

The latest such tale was published by The Washington Post in a story citing senior US and Israeli intelligence officials. Sinwar was said to be still hiding out in a tunnel in his birthplace of Khan Younis, and to have surrounded himself with Israeli hostages to use as human shields. The paper asserted that Israeli intelligence’s reluctance to go in and kill him was due to its concern not to harm the hostages.

This deliberately leaked intelligence report included some interesting facts.

It revealed that US intelligence operatives are actively involved in the search for Sinwar along with their Israeli counterparts, deploying sophisticated surveillance and bugging equipment for that purpose. This belies all the public statements from Washington that the US is not directly involved in the Gaza war in an intelligence or military capacity.

The report also implicitly admits that the Palestinian resistance’s intelligence set-up, especially Hamas’, is outperforming Israel’s. It managed to keep the hostages in safe locations and mislead its US and Israeli counterparts. Their failure to locate them all these months despite all that sophisticated equipment confirms that.

The claim that Sinwar is using the hostages as human shields to avoid being killed or captured is a blatant lie aimed at covering up for this failure. It is directed primarily at the section of the Israeli public that sees the freeing of the hostages as an absolute priority and is critical of the agencies’ inability to achieve that goal.

The US and Israel’s obsession with eliminating Sinwar is testimony to his military, political, and administrative skills and his steadfastness. The Israelis have never been up against a Palestinian or Arab leader like him before. They wrongly conclude that if they assassinate him, Hamas and all the other resistance group will disintegrate.

The Americans and Israelis are used to dealing with weak and submissive Arab leaders who obey their orders out of fear of their retribution and being toppled from their thrones. That is why they are desperate to destroy the ‘Sinwar exception’ to the Arab rule as quickly as possible, lest it become established and turn into an example for other Arab countries and future generations.

Israel’s military and intelligence chiefs do not care about the lives of the hostages. But they would use all the weapons of mass destruction at their disposal to eliminate Sinwar and his aides if they could. Dozens of the hostages have already been killed, not by the resistance, but by Israeli bombardment. Ironically, Sinwar made a point of visiting them in person, reassuring them about their safety, and ensuring they were provided with food and medicine in line with the Islamic values to which he is devoted.

The constant repetition of the assertion that Sinwar is living in a tunnel under Gaza, Khan Younis, or Rafah is evidence that they are unable to reach him. Where do they expect him to live? In a palace or villa where he can be easily targeted?

I don’t agree with the claim that even if Sinwar is, God forbid, killed or captured, Hamas won’t be affected. He is an exceptional leader and his loss would have extremely negative consequences — not least given the extremely poor quality of the current generation of leadership in the wider Arab world.

But so long as he lives, he will remain a nightmare for the occupation and its backers and a painful thorn in their side. He dealt a seismic shock to the occupying power, trashing its authority, army, security, stability, professed military supremacy, and ability to protect its settlers. He demonstrated a level of prowess in planning and implementation that they never anticipated.

They had thought that all Arabs were incompetent and subservient, wanting nothing other than money and pleasure and the approval of Uncle Sam, and ready to do his bidding without thought or discussion.

The hunt for Yahya al-Sinwar

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