Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his security apparatus have been clear since 7 October that they will not stop the war in Gaza until Hamas is eliminated.
An important person in the hunt for the Hamas leaders is Ronen Bar. He is head of Israel’s internal security service Shin Bet.
Bar called the terrorist attack against Israel on 7 October “our Munich”, referring to the terrorist attack during the Munich Olympics in 1972 that cost 11 Israelis their lives.
Member of the Palestinian terrorist group Black September during the terrorist attack against the Israeli Olympic delegation in Munich, 1972. In the following years, Israel led a relentless hunt for the perpetrators.
In the years that followed, Israeli intelligence worked intensively around the world to kill the terrorists who were responsible for the attack. Bar therefore envisions a similar pat hunt now.
– Israel has previously shown the capacity to identify and track down such persons. There are resources behind the words, says Tom Røseth.
Røseth is head lecturer in intelligence at the Norwegian Defense Academy, and does not rule out that Israel will close. But it can take time.
“They are living on borrowed time”
There are three men at large after the attack on 7 October who are particularly high on Israel’s list, write Reuters. It is the men who are said to have planned and carried out the attack, which is the bloodiest in Israel’s 75-year history.
According to sources the news agency has spoken to, it is unlikely that Israel will end the military operations in Gaza before these three are killed or in Israeli captivity.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant are determined to capture or kill the Hamas leaders.
“They are living on borrowed time,” said Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant at the end of November.
– It is important for Israel to see that such attacks do not go unpunished. The actors who speak out here are those who are responsible for the intelligence failure before the attack on 7 October, says Røseth.
The leader in Gaza
One of those Israel wishes to punish is Hamas’s leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar (61).
Sinwar is one of the central planners of the attack on Israel on 7 October. At the end of the 80s, he is said to have helped establish Hamas’s internal security apparatus.
For many years, Sinwar was responsible for identifying and killing Palestinians who were informers for Israel. He therefore gave Palestinians the nickname “the butcher from Khan Yunis”, as follows Financial Times.
Yahya Sinwar is Hamas’s leader in Gaza. He grew up in Khan Yunis, south of Gaza.
Sinwar has been in an Israeli prison. There he served four life sentences, guilty of helping to kill Israeli soldiers and Palestinian collaborators, write NPR.
After more than 20 years in prison, he was released 12 years ago as one of more than 1,000 Palestinians when Israel brought home the soldier Gilat Shalit.
in 2017, Sinwar was elected Hamas’ top leader in Gaza, where Israel believes he now resides and operates in hiding.
The military leader
The other is Mohammed Deif (58). He was a neighbor of Yahya Sinwar in Khan Yunis, and is the leader of Hamas’s military branch, the al-Qassam Brigades. He has been there for more than 20 years.
Deif is the engineer behind several of Hamas’s suicide bombs, and is known for organizing terrorist attacks against Israel.
Israel has tried to kill him several times. In one of the attempts, his wife, daughter and newborn son were killed. This should have happened in 2014, claims Israeli intelligence.
The only picture that exists of Mohammed Deif is from around the year 2000.
Deif is alive, but is said to have lost an eye, both legs and an arm.
Deif, which means “guest” in Arabic, is supposed to be a name he has taken. The “guest” is very mysterious, and there is almost no concrete information about him.
He is supposed to live in different houses every night to avoid Israeli intelligence, write Financial Times.
The right hand
The third person is Deif’s right-hand man, Marwan Issa (58). He was born in a refugee camp in the middle of Gaza, and is today the deputy leader of the armed branch of Hamas.
He was arrested by Israeli forces and imprisoned during the first intifada. He was imprisoned for five years.
He was imprisoned again by the Palestinian Authority in 1997, but released after the second intifada in 2000.
Issa was on Israel’s list of wanted persons, and was followed BBC hurt when Israel tried to kill him in 2006.
Israeli aircraft are also said to have destroyed his house twice. His brother is said to have been killed in one of the attacks.
He believes that Israel, like Sinwar and Deif, has played an important role in the planning of several attacks on Israel. Also the latest, 7 October.
Will require complex operations for a long time
Røseth believes Israel believes they have the right to attack these actors, regardless of where in the world they may be staying.
Shin Bet chief Ronen Bar mentions Qatar, Lebanon and Turkey as countries in which they want to hunt down the Hamas leadership.
– It is reasonable to believe that these actors will seek shelter in areas where Hamas has benefits. Where Iran has influence. This is a relevant area, if they can get out of Gaza, says Røseth.
Tom Røseth is head lecturer in intelligence at the Norwegian Defense Academy.
Photo: Frode Fjerdingstad / Frode Fjerdingstad
– It will obviously have great symbolic value if Israel were to succeed in eliminating the Hamas leadership. But what does that mean militarily?
– If you take the lead, militarily or politically, it will happen to the organisation. How seriously it will be affected depends on how many are removed, and how many can gain authority internally and fill the roles.
Several sources say it is unlikely that the military operations in Gaza will be ended before Israel has finished removing the Hamas leaders. Røseth thinks it seems credible.
– It is a stated strategy for Israel. Whether they want to close is the question. I think they can be closed, but whether they will be able to remove Hamas completely is difficult to say, says Røseth and adds:
– It will require complex military operations in Gaza. For a long time to come.
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