Sinwar briefly emerged from hiding in Gaza, met with fighters, Hamas source claims

Israel doesn’t comment on claim terror leader surfaced; hostages’ families forum says intelligence officials found report ‘reliable,’ warns it shows Israeli failure in war

File: Yahia al-Sinwar, the Gaza Strip chief of the Palestinian Islamist Hamas movement, greets supporters as he arrives to attend a rally marking Al-Quds (Jerusalem) Day, April 14, 2023. (Mohammed Abed/AFP)
File: Yahia al-Sinwar, the Gaza Strip chief of the Palestinian Islamist Hamas movement, greets supporters as he arrives to attend a rally marking Al-Quds (Jerusalem) Day, April 14, 2023. (Mohammed Abed/AFP)

Hamas terror group leader Yahya Sinwar briefly surfaced from his underground hiding place and walked the streets of the Gaza Strip, an official in the group claimed.

The official, who spoke anonymously to the London-based Al-Araby Al-Jadeed newspaper in an interview published Wednesday, refuted Israeli claims that Sinwar is cut off from his forces on the ground, saying the terror chief met with fighters and reviewed sites where there were clashes with the Israel Defense Forces.

Israel has made eliminating Sinwar a key element of its goal to destroy Hamas after the terror group’s devastating October 7 attack on the country that opened the still ongoing war in the Gaza Strip. Israeli officials have claimed that Sinwar is forced to hunker down in Hamas’s vast network of tunnels beneath Gaza, leaving him isolated from the group’s gunmen.

They have indicated he was likely in tunnels under Khan Younis or Rafah, surrounded by hostages.

However, the Hamas source said that Sinwar was “effectively leading the movement on the ground,” according to a review of the interview with Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, carried by the newspaper’s English language website New Arab, and Hebrew media reports of the remarks.

Sinwar, the source claimed, “recently inspected areas that witnessed clashes between the resistance and the occupation army, and met with some fighters of the movement above ground and not in the tunnels.”

“In recent discussions between the leadership of the movement internally and externally, Sinwar briefed the external leadership of the movement on the situation of the resistance in the Strip,” providing an update on its combat capabilities, the source said.

The source noted the meetings took place at Hamas leaders’ homes.

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

Israeli officials did not immediately comment on the report.

However, the forum representing the families of hostages who were abducted from Israel during the Hamas October attack said in a statement that intelligence officials looked into the report and found that the information was “reliable.”

Sinwar’s “exit from the depths of the tunnels while the hostages languish in basements is a picture of Israeli failure,” the forum said.

Addressing the government, the statement said that “if the hostages are not on your mind, there will be no redemption and no victory.”

Channel 13 cited the Hamas source as telling Al-Araby Al-Jadeed that, “Despite the war, Sinwar is not detached from the reality, but continues to carry out his work as a leader in the field. The discourse that he is isolated in the tunnels is nothing more than [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu’s claim, designed to please the Israeli public and his allies.”

On October 7, Hamas led a massive cross-border attack on Israel that killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians. The 3,000 attackers who burst through the boundary with the Gaza Strip to rampage murderously through southern regions also abducted 253 people of all ages who were taken as hostages in the Palestinian enclave.

People walk by photographs of Israelis still held hostage by Hamas terrorists in Gaza, at Hostages Square in Tel Aviv. March 14, 2024. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

“It is not possible, of course, to accurately determine the number of living prisoners, but what is certain is that it is higher than the numbers being circulated in the Hebrew media,” the source said.

He falsely claimed that Hamas holds about 30 “generals and Shin Bet officers” captured on October 7, saying they are being held in “highly secured locations” and that it is “impossible to get to them.”

The IDF has officially confirmed the deaths of 34 of those kidnapped on October 7 and still held by Hamas, citing new intelligence and findings obtained by troops operating in Gaza. However, privately Israeli and US officials have said the number of dead may be much higher. There are 133 hostages still being held captive.

The source also claimed that Hamas had offered to release 40 hostages in the first stage of a recent temporary ceasefire proposal, and not just 20, as was reported in Israel. Hamas ultimately rejected the proposal.

“Since the conclusion of that round, the US has been seething with anger after failing through all pressure attempts to force the resistance to accept surrender conditions in favor of the occupation government and release Israeli prisoners without real commitments to end the suffering of the Palestinian people,” the Hamas source said.

“The sole pathway to release the occupation’s prisoners lies in negotiations accompanied by a commitment to ceasefire and reconstruction,” said the source.

Troops of the Kfir Brigade’s Netzah Yehuda Battalion operate in northern Gaza’s Beit Hanoun, in a handout image published April 23, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

The source also denied that mediators Egypt and Qatar are pressuring Hamas about negotiations, saying “the positions of Cairo and Doha were accommodating of the demands and conditions of the resistance.”

The interview came the same day that Hamas released a propaganda video showing signs of life from Israeli-American hostage Hersh Goldberg-Polin, 23.

In the nearly three-minute-long video, Goldberg-Polin, who is seen missing one of his hands, vociferously demands that the Israeli government return the hostages from Gaza or step down, echoing a stance increasingly voiced recently by some relatives of the abductees.

Videos from the Hamas onslaught have shown that a part of Goldberg-Polin’s arm was blown off, as the Hamas terrorists lobbed grenades into a shelter where he and others who tried to escape the party hid.

The release of the video prompted a demonstration outside the prime minister’s home in Jerusalem, with protesters demanding that the government reach a deal to free the hostages.

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