24 years in Israeli jail, then leading Hamas attacks

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In the week following Hamas’ shocking attack on Israeli cities, the name Yahya Sinwar has gained notoriety. Israeli authorities have labeled Sinwar as the “face of evil” and accused him of orchestrating the attacks that resulted in the deaths of 1,300 Israelis. As Israel prepares for a ground offensive in the Gaza Strip, a spokesperson for the Israeli forces has declared that Sinwar and his team are being targeted.

Yahya Sinwar’s Background: Yahya Sinwar was born in 1962 in Khan Younis, a city in south Gaza, which was under Egypt’s control at the time. Israeli forces have referred to him as the “butcher of Khan Younis” due to his association with the city. Sinwar’s family had originally lived in Ashkelon, now in southern Israel, but they were displaced to Gaza in 1948 when Israel took control of Ashkelon. Sinwar holds a bachelor’s degree in Arabic studies from the Islamic University in Gaza.

Imprisonment: Sinwar has spent approximately 24 years in prison. His first arrest was in 1982 for subversive activities. He later collaborated with Salah Shehade to create a unit that targeted Israeli informants within the Palestinian movement. Shehade was killed by Israeli forces in 2002 while leading Hamas’ military wing. In 1988, Sinwar was arrested for his involvement in the murder of two Israeli soldiers and four Palestinians suspected of working for Israel. He was subsequently sentenced to four life sentences.

Release: In 2006, a team from Hamas’ military wing used a tunnel to infiltrate Israeli territory, attacking an army post, killing two Israeli soldiers, and capturing one, Gilad Shalit. Shalit was held captive for five years and was eventually released in a prisoner swap deal in 2011. In exchange for Shalit’s freedom, Israel released 1,027 Palestinian and Israeli Arab prisoners, including Yahya Sinwar, who had spent 22 years in prison.

Rise within Hamas: Following his release, Sinwar climbed the ranks within Hamas, particularly in its military wing. In 2015, he was listed as a wanted international terrorist by the U.S. Department of State for his role in founding the forerunner of the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’ military wing. In 2017, Sinwar was elected as the head of Hamas in Gaza.

Ruler of Gaza: Yahya Sinwar is the second-in-command in the Hamas leadership, after Ismail Haniyeh, who heads the organization’s political bureau and lives in voluntary exile. With Haniyeh absent, Sinwar serves as the de facto ruler of Gaza. He is known for advocating armed struggle against Israel and opposing compromise. Reports suggest that he commands the absolute loyalty of Hamas members and is meticulous about monitoring their activities.

Recent Israel Attacks: Israel has accused Sinwar of masterminding the attacks on Israeli cities. The Israel Defense Forces spokesperson labeled him as the “face of evil” and compared him to Osama bin Laden’s role in the 9/11 attacks. Israel has vowed to pursue Sinwar and his team, stating that they are in their sights, despite acknowledging that it may be a protracted campaign

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