“Israel has nearly 40 years of experience in dealing with Yahya Sinwar, the leader of Hamas in Gaza, but ‘the misreading of his personality formed the prelude to Israel’s biggest intelligence failure,’ according to a report by the British Financial Times.
The report considered that the Israeli experience with Sinwar ‘only led to appeasing Israeli security leaders and giving them a false sense of self-satisfaction.’
Michael Milstein, a former Israeli military intelligence officer and an expert in Palestinian affairs, told the British newspaper, ‘We never understood him,’ referring to Sinwar.
After Hamas attacks that resulted in the death of more than 1,400 people in Israel, Israel set ‘the elimination of Sinwar’ as a primary goal for its military campaign in Gaza.
Last week, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said at a press conference, ‘We will find Sinwar and we will eliminate him,’ adding, ‘I say to the residents of Gaza: if you find him before us, it will shorten the duration of the war.’
Soon after the war broke out between Israel and Hamas, the Palestinian movement classified as a terrorist organization, Israel said Sinwar, who is the head of Hamas’s political bureau in Gaza, and Mohammed Deif, the military expert of the movement who is considered the commander of Hamas’s forces, are ‘the most important targets for its army in the war.’
Israeli security sources said that Sinwar and Deif ‘are now in the midst of a network of tunnels built specifically against the bombing campaign launched by Israel,’ according to India Today.
Sinwar is considered the most responsible for the surprise attack on October 7, according to the ‘Financial Times,’ while Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refers to him as a ‘dead man walking’.
Sinwar was imprisoned in Israeli jails since the late 1980s when Hamas began to emerge in the Gaza Strip, before he was released as part of the deal for Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who Israel recovered in exchange for releasing more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in 2011.
But when Israel arrested him, it was because of his ‘special role’ within Hamas, which is ‘the pursuit of Palestinians suspected of cooperating with Israel,’ according to the ‘Financial Times.’
Micha Kobi, who interrogated Sinwar on behalf of the internal security agency ‘Shin Bet’ in 1989, said the Hamas leader ‘admitted to committing a murder.’
That was at the height of what is called the ‘first Palestinian intifada.’ Kobi was a Shin Bet officer chasing Hamas members, which was then ‘a small armed Islamic group coming to the forefront in Gaza.’
‘Psychological Assessment’ An Israeli intelligence assessment of Sinwar during his time in prison said he was ‘harsh… trustworthy, influential, and accepted by his peers.’
In addition, the assessment considers that Sinwar ‘has extraordinary abilities for endurance, cunning, and manipulation and is content with little.. he keeps secrets even in prison among other prisoners.’
Sinwar (61 years old) grew up in one of the poor neighbourhoods in Khan Yunis, southern Gaza, and first appeared on the political scene in the early 1980s when he was advising the founder of Hamas, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, who was wheelchair-bound.
Sinwar’s neighbour in Khan Yunis was Mohammed Deif, who is now the mysterious military commander of Hamas.
In addition to helping establish the group’s military wing, Sinwar was appointed in charge of the internal security apparatus known as the ‘Majd Force’, forces tasked with eliminating Palestinians suspected of cooperating with Israel.
That earned him the title ‘Butcher of Khan Yunis’ that some Palestinians still call Sinwar to this day, according to the newspaper.
Kobi said Sinwar ‘boasted – whether correctly or as a boast – of the punishment imposed on one of the suspected Palestinian informants’.
Sinwar summoned the man’s brother (suspected of working with Israel), a member of Hamas, and ‘made him bury his brother alive.’ Kobi said, ‘This is Yahya Sinwar’.
A secret Israeli military court convicted Sinwar of killing 12 Palestinians, including the man who was buried alive, according to two people familiar with the case, whose identities the British newspaper did not disclose.
During his twenty years in Israeli prisons, he learned Hebrew and used it in a television interview with an Israeli channel.
Instead of war, he urged the Israeli public to ‘support a long-term truce with Hamas.’ He acknowledged that they ‘do not have the capability to destroy Israel,’ which is the goal of the Palestinian movement classified as a terrorist organization by the United States and several countries.
In that interview, Sinwar said, ‘We do not recognize the state of Israel, but we are ready to go to a long-term truce for our generation and the next generation, leading the region to a period of calm and prosperity.’
The official Israeli intelligence assessment was that ‘the Hamas movement led by Sinwar was hesitant to engage in another war and interested in reaching a broader agreement with Israel,’ according to the British newspaper.
According to Israeli intelligence, ‘the Hamas attack required at least a year of planning,’ and Sinwar’s statements, as Israeli officials and analysts now confirm, ‘were just a deception to gain time.’
The Financial Times spoke with a source (not Israeli) with extensive experience with Sinwar, without revealing his identity. This man said about Sinwar, ‘He has enormous arrogance. He is socially maladjusted. I don’t mean that as an insult.’
He added that Sinwar is willing ‘to sacrifice tens of thousands of lives, and more than that, to achieve his goals.’
On the other hand, Milstein, the Israeli military intelligence officer, said, ‘We have to face it. He is driven by hatred, massacres, and the destruction of Israel'”.