Isolated, on constant run: the hunt after Sinwar continues

Israeli officials say Hamas leader moving through tunnels, using hostages as human shields, and unable to communicate with outside world

Footage of Sinwar evacuating in tunnels
(Photo: IDF Spokesperson's Unit)

Since the October 7 massacre, Hamas leader in Gaza Yahya Sinwar has been on the run and Israeli officials believe that as the IDF advances in its ground operations, his euphoria gives way to sheer panic.
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The IDF has recently arrested several family members of Hamas leaders in an effort to capture the terrorist organization's top brass. Watch footage of Sinwar on the run.
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דובר צה"ל מציג את התיעוד של סינוואר
דובר צה"ל מציג את התיעוד של סינוואר
Sinwar and family in tunnel
(Photo: IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
Security officials have recently said that Sinwar was constantly on the move "like a crazed rat," eager to end the war and secure his safety. The pursuit take place primarily underground, with the IDF suggesting that extended combat could pressure Sinwar into finalizing a deal for the hostages' release.
Conversely, some in the security establishment believe that for Sinwar, a cease-fire, IDF withdrawal from Gaza, control over Temple Mount and the release of security prisoners are as crucial as his own survival.
Meanwhile, as the negotiations for another hostage deal are underway, Hamas representatives claim they are unable to contact Sinwar and his men, possibly due to difficulties conducting secure communications while frequently changing hiding places.
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דובר צה"ל מציג את התיעוד של סינוואר
דובר צה"ל מציג את התיעוד של סינוואר
Sinwar and his children flee in terror tunnel
(Photo: IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
Since most hostages are in Sinwar's custody, the estimates are that even if Ismail Haniyeh, the head of Hamas' political bureau, makes a decision, it is Sinwar who will ultimately determine the fate of the deal.
The Israeli security establishment expected that at this stage of the war, at least one significant senior member of Hamas in the Gaza Strip would be eliminated. These figures included: Sinwar himself, his brother Muhammad, Marwan Issa and military commander Muhammad Deif.
Although significant intelligence was obtained by the IDF, including recent photos of shadowy Deif and videos of Sinwar in a tunnel under Khan Younis, the four are still on the run. According to various reports, even when they were offered to be exiled from Gaza as part of a deal and thereby ensuring they would survive the war, Sinwar refused.
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יחיא סינוואר
יחיא סינוואר
Hamas leader in Gaza Yahya Sinwar
(Photo: AP)
Ynet commentator Ron Ben-Yishai highlighted this week that Yahya Sinwar and the senior leadership of Hamas in Gaza are not merely retreating into panic-induced hiding below ground; rather, IDF intelligence suggests that they are also taking hostages with them. This action implies that the terrorists are coercing the captives to shuffle between various subterranean hideouts along with the leadership, a strategy aimed at ensuring the survival of the top officials. The IDF has bolstered this assertion with damning evidence discovered in a key Hamas tunnel located in Khan Younis.
The IDF has uncovered at least four tunnels in Khan Younis where Sinwar was hiding, forcing him to flee. Additionally, Ben-Yishai observed that Sinwar's effectiveness as Hamas' leader is diminishing due to his frequent need to escape, leaving him reliant on hostages not only as human shields but also as leverage in negotiations to sustain Hamas' rule in the Gaza Strip.
However, should the IDF capture Rafah and overthrow Hamas, Sinwar will find himself without an escape route or hostages, effectively ending his role as a significant figure in Gaza.
The IDF estimates that there are more than 1,500 tunnel shafts in the Gaza Strip, which stretch for hundreds of kilometers. Sinwar is reportedly hiding with the other senior officials, preparing for long-term encampments and escaping before the IDF arrives. Israel fears that Sinwar could escape from Gaza to Sinai, and from there to a Muslim country that would grant him asylum.
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דובר צה"ל מציג את התיעוד של סינוואר
דובר צה"ל מציג את התיעוד של סינוואר
IDF uncovers Hamas leadership hiding place
(Photo: IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
5 View gallery
דובר צה"ל מציג את התיעוד של סינוואר
דובר צה"ל מציג את התיעוד של סינוואר
IDF recovers millions of shekels in cash during current Gaza war
(Photo: IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
During the hunt for Sinwar, the IDF was able to arrest several notable Hamas operatives, including relatives of senior Hamas officials. "Among the detainees was the father of Khan Younis Division Commander Rafah Salama, and the son of Hosni Hamdan, one of Hamas' leaders," claimed IDF Spokesperson Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari. "They provide us with much intelligence in the Shin Bet investigations."
According to Hagari, the findings presented by the IDF in the tunnels indicate that Sinwar and senior Hamas officials are staying in the tunnels "in good condition, with food and a lot of cash."
Hagari commented regarding Sinwar being disconnected from Hamas. "It is not right to reveal intelligence available to us. It is our job to get to him dead or alive. This is our mission, we will not divulge the information we know, or how and when we got it," he said.
He also refused to elaborate on when the last sign of life was received from the Hamas leader in Gaza.
Senior Israeli officials claimed that Sinwar's footage in a tunnel is not the only one available and there are more recent ones as well. "One video or another is not what is important, but rather reaching the senior Hamas officials," Hagari added.
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