US, Israel Say Hamas Chief Is Hiding Underground In Gaza – But There’s One Major Risk In Killing Him Right Now

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Jake Smith Contributor
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The U.S. and Israel are confident that Yahya Sinwar, the leader of Hamas, is hiding underground in the Gaza Strip, but killing him could risk the lives of hostages surrounding him, The Washington Post reported on Monday.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and U.S. intelligence believe Sinwar is hiding somewhere in a network of tunnels under Khan Younis, a southern city in Gaza, according to officials from both countries who spoke to the Post. The challenge is not so much finding Sinwar as it is how to deal with him next, as trying to kill him could threaten the lives of several nearby hostages he’s using as human shields. (RELATED: IDF Publishes Footage Purporting To Show Hamas Leader Yahya Sinwar In Tunnel Days After Oct. 7 Attack)

“It’s not about locating him, it’s about doing something [without jeopardizing the hostages] one senior Israeli official told the Post.

Many senior Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, see either killing, capturing or neutralizing Sinwar as absolutely vital to ending the war against Hamas, according to the Post. There is debate over whether killing Sinwar would end the war, but at the very least it could cripple Hamas’ operational capabilities and secure a massive win for Israel.

In addition to the risk that would come with killing Sinwar while he’s surrounded by hostages, there is also the challenge of navigating the tunnels where he is likely located, according to the Post. Hamas utilizes an expansive network of tunnels that span hundreds of miles underneath Gaza, and clearing out and destroying them is demanding a considerable amount of time and resources.

The U.S. is working jointly with Israel to map out the tunnels and determine Hamas’ next moves using available intelligence as well as information collected during interrogations of captured terrorists, the officials told the Post. Some information is also collected by IDF soldiers who recover items in the tunnels such as computer hard drives and administrative files.

Sinwar apparently left behind several items in the tunnels; the IDF has collected some of his clothing and handwritten notes, according to the Post. The IDF published footage in early February allegedly showing Sinwar navigating tunnels under Khan Yunis with his wife and children on Oct. 10.

It isn’t clear whether Sinwar is still in a position to command Hamas, given his current efforts to remain in hiding, according to the Post. Defense Minister Yoav Gallant claimed in remarks earlier in February that Sinwar “is not running the military campaign but is engaged in personal survival.”

The IDF did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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