'Face of evil': Yahya Sinwar, the fearsome leader of Hamas in Gaza, hunted down by Israel

For the Israelis, he is the man to kill: Yahya Sinwar, the leader of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, is considered the mastermind of the October 7 attack on Israel. At 61 years old, he is well known to the intelligence services.

The leader of the Islamist movement Hamas in the Gaza Strip, Yahya Sinwar, on April 30, 2022. AP - Adel Hana

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I dream of Sinouar, I think about it when I eat... I think about it all the time! " says Michael Kobi. " The 78-year-old veteran of the Shin Bet, Israel's domestic intelligence service, is haunted by Yahya Sinwar, reports our correspondent in Jerusalem, Sami Boukhelifa. He worked with him in Israeli prisons where he was in charge of interrogations. He had 150 hours of interrogation with the man who was at the time the head of a militia tasked with hunting down traitors to the Palestinian cause. "I've never known anyone so cruel," he says. He used a butcher knife and decapitated his victims. In Gaza, they nicknamed him, "the butcher of Khan Younis." He spoke coldly, indifferently. Nothing touched him.


The "Butcher of Khan Younis"

Yahya Sinwar is "the face of evil," an Israeli army spokesman said recently. Born in Gaza's Khan Younis refugee camp, Yahya Sinwar grew up in the shadow of Sheikh Yacine, the founder of Hamas, reports Murielle Paradon, a journalist with the International Service. Soon, he becomes the leader of a militia tasked with hunting down traitors. His cruelty earned him his nickname. His radicalism toward Israel is well known.

Fluent in Arabic, Michaël Kobi talks with him, tries to understand the character and his vision. During his 22-year prison stay in Israel, Yahya Sinwar learned Hebrew and had the opportunity to learn about the enemy, before being released in 2011 as part of a prisoner exchange aimed at freeing soldier Gilad Shalit from Hamas. "He never hid his goal," the former agent recalled.

Mastermind of the October 7 Attacks

But when he became head of Hamas' political bureau in Gaza in 2017, his rhetoric changed. Yahya Sinwar says he wants to develop the Palestinian enclave economically rather than go to war. Was it a façade or a sincere ambition that failed? In any case, this charismatic and manipulative man is suspected of being behind the unprecedented attacks of 7 October that plunged Israel into terror and led to a bloody crackdown on Gazans.

« In 1989, he said he was planning a major massacre of Jews, in accordance with Hamas' charter. So he considers what he has done to be a success. We should have eliminated it a long time ago. »

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant vowed to "find" and "eliminate" him. He would be holed up in the tunnels under the Palestinian enclave.

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