The Israeli prime minister said Wednesday that Israeli forces had surrounded the house of Yahya Sinwar, potentially closing in on the top Hamas official in Gaza — and the man most wanted by Israeli authorities.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said Sinwar was not in the house and was believed to be hiding underground in Gaza, but a senior adviser to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday that it was “only a matter of time before we get him.”
Israel has publicly accused Sinwar of being the “mastermind” behind Hamas’ terror attack against Israel on October 7 — though experts say he is likely one of several — making him one of the key targets of its war in Gaza.
A longtime figure in the Islamist Palestinian group, Sinwar was responsible for building up Hamas’ military wing before forging important new ties with regional Arab powers as the group’s civilian and political leader.
He was elected to Hamas’ main decision-making body, the Politburo, in 2017 as the political leader of Hamas in Gaza branch. However, he has since become the Politburo’s de facto leader, according to research by the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR).
He has been designated a global terrorist by the US Department of State since 2015, and has been recently sanctioned by the United Kingdom and France.
Harel Chorev, senior researcher at the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies at Tel Aviv University, said that while Sinwar is a key player within Hamas, he shouldn’t be seen as its sole leader.
“He is perceived as the most senior one because he has a very high public profile, but Hamas doesn’t work this way,” he said. “Hamas is a decentralized organization with several separate power centers and he is one of them.”