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Israel hunting down Hamas chief, alleged mastermind of Oct. 7 attacks

Hamas chief Yahya Sinwar ​has been nicknamed the "butcher of Khan Yunis" and was labeled a global terrorist by U.S. government.
Israel hunting down Hamas chief, alleged mastermind of Oct. 7 attacks
Posted at 11:04 AM, Dec 05, 2023

After Israel's weeklong truce with Hamas expired Friday, the country is not backing down from its mission to eliminate the terrorist group. 

As Israel expands its ground operations into southern Gaza, it has a major goal in mind: to hunt down the suspected mastermind of the Oct. 7 attacks — Hamas chief Yahya Sinwar.

Israel says Sinwar is pulling the strings of the Hamas terrorist group. He's been nicknamed the "butcher of Khan Yunis" (the largest city in south Gaza), and has been described by officials as both a "psychopath" and the "face of evil."

Sinwar spent more than 22 years in Israeli prison for killing soldiers but was freed during a hostage deal 12 years ago. Since then, he's risen to the top of the ranks of Hamas, and has been labeled a global terrorist by the U.S. government. 

IDF officials believe Sinwar has been coordinating recent hostage releases and other war affairs from the safety of an underground bunker in Gaza.

SEE MORE: Israeli troops push into south Gaza in new phase of war with Hamas

Jamil Jaffer — former White House counsel for President George W. Bush and founder and executive director of the National Security Institute — told Scripps News that Sinwar, who has been likened to Osama bin Laden, was "a very deadly character," who on an adjusted basis, pulled off "the equivalent of a dozen 9/11s in a single day," — referring to the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the U.S. 

Jaffer said efforts to find Sinwar won't necessarily be easy. 

"This will be a challenge for the Israelis to identify where he is, ultimately go in and get him, while still preserving civilian life and avoiding civilian casualties," he said.

Much like how the U.S. eventually tracked down and assassinated bin Laden, Israel is relying on a number of resources to uncover Sinwar's whereabouts. This includes a combination of human intelligence, geospatial imagery, assets on the ground and signals intelligence — which was critical in the U.S. finding bin Laden, Jaffer said.

While Sinwar is just one key player, Jaffer said hunting him down is still an effective move for Israel. 

"It's always very helpful to keep the leadership of a terrorist organization on the run," he said.

Jaffer said going after him poses a challenge for Hamas in planning large-scale attacks and coordinating responses. 

"You can really achieve some success by cutting the head of the snake off," said Jaffer. 

Still, Israel will have to eliminate a number of Hamas fighters to make a long-term impact, he said.

Israel has doubled down on statements that their job is not done until Hamas is eliminated, and that comes whether or not there is another temporary pause in fighting to free more hostages back to Israel and get more critical aid into Gaza. 

In all, nearly 16,000 people have been killed in eight weeks of fighting, with 42,000 injured.

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