IDF airs footage of Hamas leader Sinwar in Gaza tunnel: ‘We’ll catch him, dead or alive’

Army said to identify terror chief, whose back is to camera along with family, by size of his ears and with AI; spokesperson says clip shows Hamas leaders only care for themselves

Hamas's Gaza Strip leader Yahya Sinwar in a tunnel in southern Gaza's Khan Younis, October 10, 2023 (IDF Spokesman)

The Israel Defense Forces on Tuesday released footage of what it said was Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar walking through a Gaza tunnel with several of his family members.

If confirmed, it would be the first time Sinwar had been spotted since he went into hiding ahead of Hamas’s October 7 terror onslaught. IDF spokesman Daniel Hagari released the footage, as unnamed security officials again leaked to Hebrew media claims that the IDF was closing in on the terror chief. The release of the footage also came as top Israeli, US, Qatari and Egyptian officials were gathered in Cairo for negotiations aimed at reaching an extended truce and hostage deal.

The one-minute-long clip, filmed on October 10, features Sinwar in a tunnel underneath the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis, walking behind what appears to be his wife along with three of his children, who are led by Sinwar’s brother Ibrahim, according to the IDF.

Sinwar appears healthy, in one piece, carrying a bag and wearing Adidas flipflops. One of his daughters is seen holding a doll.

The video was taken from Hamas surveillance footage from the tunnels that was recently retrieved by IDF troops operating in the area.

While Sinwar’s back is facing the camera, the IDF was able to identify him by the larger size of the figure’s ears and by using artificial intelligence, Channel 12 reported.

An Israeli official told Channel 12 that the authorities are in possession of additional footage of Siwnar, including clips that were filmed more recently.

“Every resident of Gaza [can now] see how Hamas leaders live underground and how they don’t think about anything other than themselves, their families and their money,” IDF spokesman Daniel Hagari told the Al Arabiya network ahead of the airing of the footage.

“One video or another is not what really matters. What is important is the intelligence that will allow us to reach senior Hamas officials and the hostages. The hunt for Sinwar will not stop until we catch him, dead or alive,” Hagari said in a press conference upon releasing the footage.

He also said that earlier this month, troops detained close relatives of senior Hamas military commanders, including Sinwar.

Yahya Sinwar, head of Hamas in Gaza, greets his supporters upon his arrival at a meeting in a hall on the seaside of Gaza City, on April 30, 2022. (AP Photo/Adel Hana, File)

Among those detained are the father of Rafa’a Salameh, the commander of Hamas’s Rafah Brigade; and the son of Husni Hamdan, another senior Hamas commander, Hagari said, adding, “In Shin Bet interrogations, they are providing us with a lot of intelligence.”

He said Israeli troops raided the tunnel network seen in the October 10 footage, which is located under a cemetery in the Bani Suheila area of Khan Younis.

The tunnels contained “bedrooms of senior Hamas officials and the office of the commander of the Khan Younis Brigade’s Eastern Battalion, from where he directed the attack on October 7,” the IDF spokesman said, adding that the network connects to tunnels where hostages were held, which the IDF published details on in recent weeks.

Special forces raided another part of the tunnel, tens of meters belowground, where surveillance camera footage showed “the leader of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, the chief murderer Yahya Sinwar, fleeing with his children and one of his wives through the network of tunnels,” Hagari said.

“In the footage, which was taken on October 10, at the beginning of the war, he escaped with his family underground to one of the safe accommodation complexes he had built in advance,” he added. “We are determined to capture him, and we will capture him.”

“Following searches, we arrived at the compound where he was staying with other senior officials, hiding underground, while the war was going on above him,” Hagari said. “Senior Hamas officials resided in the compound in comfortable conditions. They have food and bathrooms, along with safes with personal funds of millions of shekels and dollars in cash.”

The IDF subsequently aired a clip showing troops giving a tour of one of the tunnels where Sinwar, his family and other senior Hamas officials hid during the war.

The video shows that the tunnel has two bathrooms, a stocked kitchen, an area to sleep in, and a separate room that the IDF said belonged to Sinwar himself, in which soldiers found a safe with millions in cash.

This image from video shows a Hamas tunnel under an apartment near Gaza City believed to have been used as a hideout by Yahya Sinwar, in a video published by the IDF on December 29, 2023. (Israel Defense Forces)

Last week, Channel 12 reported that the security establishment believes Sinwar has been “out of contact” for at least 11 days, not making any contact with Qatari and Egyptian mediators during that period as talks on a possible truce continue.

The reason for the disconnect was not clear and could be because he is on the run, engaged in a tactical ruse or simply unable to make contact due to the ongoing communications problems in Gaza.

Several decisions were made by Hamas in the past few days without him, though not necessarily ones relating to the hostages deal, Channel 12 said.

Kan reported that the Israeli security establishment’s assessment was that Sinwar was not involved in the issuing of Hamas’s response to the Qatari hostage deal framework earlier this week, which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dismissed as “delusional.”

The Hamas response included a clause stating that the deal would be “subject to the approval of the Hamas leadership in Gaza.”

Channel 12 reported on Friday that Israel asked the Qatari mediators for Hamas to have a new representative appointed for its final decision-making in the hostage talks.

The inability to reach Sinwar has led to slowdowns in the talks, the network said.

However, none of the reports regarding Sinwar’s status have been confirmed by either side.

In December, the IDF released footage obtained from the Gaza Strip showing senior Hamas commander Muhammed Sinwar, Yahya’s brother, in a car driving through a major tunnel revealed by the military.

According to the IDF, the construction of the major tunnel network that was uncovered near the Erez border crossing was led by Muhammed Sinwar. It was the largest-ever Hamas attack tunnel discovered by the military.

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