Yehya Sinwar, Hamas leader in Gaza, tops Israel’s target list | ET REALITY

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The Israeli military calls Yahya Sinwar, the hardline Hamas leader in Gaza, “the face of evil.” And senior officers say he is the main target of the tens of thousands of Israeli troops set to invade the coastal enclave and destroy his leadership.

Long considered a brutal enforcer within Hamas and an implacable enemy of Israel, Sinwar served more than two decades in Israeli prisons before being freed in a prisoner swap in 2011. He emerged as the militant group’s leader in Gaza (its top leadership resides abroad) in 2017.

“Yahya Sinwar is the face of evil,” Lt. Col. Richard Hecht, an Israeli military spokesman, said Saturday after Hamas raiders killed more than 1,300 Israelis in a brutal raid that began Oct. 7. “He is the brains behind this. , as was Bin Laden.”

Israel has responded to the attack with harsh airstrikes and a massive military buildup ahead of a widely anticipated invasion of Gaza.

“That man and his entire team are in our sights,” Colonel Hecht added. “We will get to that man.”

Sinwar, believed to be 60 or 61 years old, grew up in Khan Younis, the main city in southern Gaza. He helped establish a precursor to Hamas’s military wing called Al Majd (Arabic for “glory”) and helped form Hamas in 1987 amid the outbreak of riots and violent protests known as the first intifada.

His job was to run the group’s security branch, a role that included monitoring “morality” and punishing Palestinians suspected of collaborating with Israel.

In early 1988, Mr. Sinwar was arrested by Israeli forces and eventually sentenced to four life sentences for killing two Israeli soldiers.

Sinwar was released in 2011, the oldest of 1,100 Palestinian prisoners Israel exchanged for one of its soldiers, Gilad Shalit, who had been captured by Hamas in a cross-border raid in 2006. At the time, Sinwar said he spent his time in prison studying to the Israelis and, finally, helping to negotiate the prisoner exchange.

“They wanted the prison to be a grave for us. A mill to grind our will, determination and bodies,” Sinwar said after his release. “But thank God, with our faith in our cause we turned the prison into sanctuaries of worship and academies of study.”

Six years later, he was chosen to lead Hamas in Gaza and set about consolidating its power. He is believed to have been behind the 2015 detention, torture and murder of a Hamas commander, Mahmoud Ishtiwi, who was accused of embezzlement and “moral crimes” – amid suspicions of gay sex – that Sinwar apparently feared could commit the group.

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