Top Hamas officer rumored killed by IDF

210 Hamas gunmen killed to date, Israel says; Hamas denies assassination of Muhammad Sinwar, a commander in its military wing

Avi Issacharoff

Avi Issacharoff, The Times of Israel's Middle East analyst, fills the same role for Walla, the leading portal in Israel. He is also a guest commentator on many different radio shows and current affairs programs on television. Until 2012, he was a reporter and commentator on Arab affairs for the Haaretz newspaper. He also lectures on modern Palestinian history at Tel Aviv University, and is currently writing a script for an action-drama series for the Israeli satellite Television "YES." Born in Jerusalem, he graduated cum laude from Ben Gurion University with a B.A. in Middle Eastern studies and then earned his M.A. from Tel Aviv University on the same subject, also cum laude. A fluent Arabic speaker, Avi was the Middle East Affairs correspondent for Israeli Public Radio covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the war in Iraq and the Arab countries between the years 2003-2006. Avi directed and edited short documentary films on Israeli television programs dealing with the Middle East. In 2002 he won the "best reporter" award for the "Israel Radio” for his coverage of the second intifada. In 2004, together with Amos Harel, he wrote "The Seventh War - How we won and why we lost the war with the Palestinians." A year later the book won an award from the Institute for Strategic Studies for containing the best research on security affairs in Israel. In 2008, Issacharoff and Harel published their second book, entitled "34 Days - The Story of the Second Lebanon War," which won the same prize.

IDF Artillery Corps seen firing shells into Gaza, near the border in Southern Israel on July 21, 2014 (Photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
IDF Artillery Corps seen firing shells into Gaza, near the border in Southern Israel on July 21, 2014 (Photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Twitter and Facebook were abuzz Wednesday with rumors that high-ranking Hamas commander Muhammad Sinwar had been killed by IDF soldiers operating in the Gaza Strip.

Sinwar, the commander of Hamas’s military wing in the Khan Yunis area, was one of the leading planners of Gilad Shalit’s abduction in 2006, and personally held the Israeli soldier captive for some time.

Some Twitter users even uploaded photos, purportedly of a dead Sinwar, who is considered to be one of four top figures in the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades. But while the rumor has spread like wildfire in the Strip, the man’s death has yet to be confirmed by any reliable source.

Hamas’s armed wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, denied the rumors, saying Sinwar continues to lead “his soldiers.”

Sinwar’s brother, Yahya, is a senior official in Hamas’s political wing.

Earlier Wednesday, The Shin Bet announced it had succeeded, along with the army, to either kill or incapacitate four mid-to high-level Palestinian Islamic Jihad commanders, all in the Khan Yunis area as well.

According to the Shin Bet, the officials included the group’s Khan Yunis commander Akram Shaar, who was behind a series of attacks against Israeli soldiers and was in charge of rocket fire from the area; Mahmoud Ziada, a resident of Jabalya, who had served as a battalion commander in the northern sector; Sha’aban Dahduh, of Gaza City, also a battalion commander, whom the Shin Bet referred to as “outstanding”; and Saeed Ma’amar, also a battalion commander, in the Rafah brigade.

According to the IDF, 210 Palestinian operatives have been killed by Israeli forces since the ground incursion began on Thursday night, among them several high-ranking Hamas officers, including the commander of the group’s surveillance unit.

A senior Israeli security source asserted Wednesday that Hamas’s rocket manufacturing capacity had taken a strong hit during the IDF’s operation in the Palestinian enclave.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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