Israel ‘unsure’ if Hamas leader Sinwar is in Rafah: report

Gaza Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar is said to have orchestrated the 7 October attack on southern Israel [file/GETTY]

Israel is unsure of the exact whereabouts of senior Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar in Gaza despite claiming otherwise, according to a report on Saturday.

Sinwar has been top of Israel’s hit list and the military has said that its Rafah incursion was aiming to target Sinwar and other key players in Hamas’s leadership, who have so far largely dodged Israeli attacks.

Israeli officials told The Times of Israel that they do not know Sinwar’s exact current location but believe the leader could be in underground tunnels in the southern Khan Younis area.

The leader of Hamas in Gaza is said to have orchestrated the surprise October 7 attack into southern Israel, which killed 1,139 Israelis and saw the group take around 250 people captive.

The attack prompted Israel’s brutal invasion of Gaza, now in its eighth month, which has killed over 35,000 Palestinians, decimated the enclave and triggered a major humanitarian crisis.

The Israeli government has said that targeting Hamas’s leader is one of its key objectives in the war but has so far failed to make many significant hits.

The army has made claims that it is confident in the whereabouts of the Palestinian group’s leadership and has used it to justify repeated attacks on dense civilian areas.

But the official cited by The Times of Israel said that “many of the IDF’s achievements on the ground have been short-lived”.

A handful of senior military and political Hamas figures have been killed, including the al-Qassam brigades deputy commander Marwan Issa. The US confirmed Issa had been killed in a strike on the Jabalia area of north Gaza in March.

In February, the Israeli army released video footage purporting to show Sinwar walking through a tunnel in Gaza alongside family members.

According to a report on Israel’s Channel 12 broadcaster on Thursday, the Israeli military planned an operation to assassinate Sinwar and al-Qassim Brigades commander Mohammed Deif as far back as 2021.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has resolutely continued with an invasion into Rafah, asserting that it is crucial to achieve his war aim of defeating Hamas, despite international opposition.

The military claims that four Hamas battalions are hiding in the southern areas, but fresh attacks in the north around Gaza City have prompted Israel to step up fighting in the north after claiming to have defeated Hamas in those areas.

This week, the Israeli military launched devastating air and ground assaults on the Gaza City neighbourhoods of Zeitoun and Jabalia which forced the evacuation of hundreds of civilians.

Dozens have been killed and injured by the attacks and locals have said nowhere safe to go.

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