Who is Yahya Sinwar? Key Facts About Hamas Leader Who Abducted and Killed Israeli Soldiers

Israel Defense Forces (IDF) attacked the home and offices of Yahya Sinwar, the current Palestinian leader of Hamas in the Gaza Strip on Saturday after Hamas launched more than 300 rockets into Israeli territory.

Israel reported no deaths from the Hamas missile strikes but said some 10 people were injured as they ran into bomb shelters. The IDF then began a wave of airstrikes in the Gaza Strip, hitting more than 150 targets.

The IDF jets bombed the house of Sinwar in the Khan Unis area of Gaza. No details of the attack have been released yet. There has been no reports of any death or injury yet.

Yahya Sinwar
Hamas Gaza leader Yahya Sinwar Wikimedia Commons

Who is Yahya Sinwar?

  • Yahya Sinwar was designated a terrorist by the United States in 2015. He took over from Ismail Haniyeh as Hamas leader in February 2017. Sinwar earned his stripes working in the security apparatus of Hamas and is one of the cofounders of the organization.
  • Sinwar was a wanted man in Israel for long. He had allegedly masterminded the abduction and killing of two Israeli soldiers in 1988. He was arrested by Israel, and the trial led to conviction and sentencing.
  • Sinwar eventually spent long 22 years in an Israeli prison but was released and repatriated to Gaza in 2011 as part of a prisoner exchange. Hamas had bargained for his release after capturing Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.
  • Sinwar is one of the hardliners in the Hamas cadres. He rejects any reconciliation with Israel, while also denouncing any meaningful collaboration with the Palestinian Authority being run from Ramallah.
  • Sinwar, who started taking part in militant resistance against Israel in his early 20s, was instrumental in launching the Hamas controlled administrative committee for the Gaza Strip. He has openly exhorted Hamas militia to capture more Israeli soldiers.
IDF Tanks in Gaza
Israel prepares for ground attack in Gaza. The 13th Battalion of the Golani Brigade during a drill held in the Golan Heights, northern Israel - file photo Wikimedia Commons
  • "We would rather die as martyrs than die out of oppression and humiliation .... We are ready to die, and tens of thousands will die with us," he had famously told Gazans
  • Sinwar reportedly exhorted Gazans to hold mass protests along the fence that separates Gaza from Israel. He was re-elected as leader of Hamas in Gaza in March 2021.
  • He threatened Israel with war last year after Gaza was crippled by the coronavirus pandemic and a shortage of medical supplies.
  • "If we found that corona[virus] patients in Gaza [are] unable to breathe, we will prevent six million Zionists from breathing and we will get what we want from you by force," he said, according to Al Jazeera.
  • Sinwar is seen as a staunch enemy if Egypt. He was reported to have orchestrated incursions in Egypt's Sinai Desert.
  • While favoring close relations with Iran, the Hamas leader has also curiously worked closely with Islamic State affiliates in the region.