Hamas kingpin holed up deep below Gaza, surrounded by hostages used as human shields, says expert

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JERUSALEM – The terrorist mastermind behind Hamas’ massacre of nearly 1,200 people, including over 30 Americans, is believed to be using hostages as human shields to hold off Israeli soldiers seeking to capture him in a tunnel deep below Gaza.

The shocking information about Hamas kingpin Yahya Sinwar was revealed by Gen. Jack Keane, FOX News Channel senior strategic analyst and former U.S. army vice chief of staff, in an interview with Sky News Australia on Thursday.

Yahya Sinwar speaks on stage while pointing.

Hamas terrorist leader Yahya Sinwar speaks to a crowd. (Majdi Fathi/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

“My sources tell me that Sinwar, who is the number one leader in Gaza of the Hamas organization, has 15-20 hostages protecting him and his family,” Keane said. “That’s why they have these hostages, to guarantee their survival. Israel is absolutely right in putting military pressure on them to force the release of the hostages.”

Keane’s revelation coincides with statements by Israel’s national security adviser, Tzachi Hanegbi, in an interview with Israeli news outlet Channel 12 on Saturday that Israel Defense Forces (IDF) nearly killed Sinwar. Hanegbi said Sinwar “is living on borrowed time,” and that “he won’t emerge alive from this confrontation.” 

Israel is offering a $400,000 bounty for the capture of Sinwar. In December, Israel dropped leaflets on Gaza offering rewards for information about the location of Hamas’ top leadership.

Hanegbi said the IDF was close to killing Sinwar over the last few months. “It is apparently hard for [Sinwar] to make a decision [regarding a hostage agreement] that is likely to mean the end of Hamas rule,” noted Hanegbi, who added that “because the minute he gives up on the highly significant card for his survival, our hostages, it’s not easy for him, and that’s why things are delayed.”

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Sinwar walking on stage while greeting a crowd.

Terrorist leader Yahya Sinwar waves during a rally. (Rizek Abdeljawad/Xinhua via Getty Images)

The citizenship composition of the hostages being used by Sinwar – in violation of international humanitarian law – is unclear. Five Americans are believed to be among the more than 100 hostages held by Hamas. 

Hamas invaded Israel on Oct. 7, 2023, and as part of its slaughter of roughly 1,200 people, the terrorist group took over 200 hostages into Gaza. A November hostage deal secured the freedom of more than 100 hostages, mostly women and children, in exchange for Israel’s release of dozens of Palestinian terrorists.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has announced a military operation into Rafah – the last major city controlled by Hamas and where Sinwar is believed be hiding with his hostages. Israel’s security objective is also to destroy the tunnels between Egypt and Rafah that enable Hamas to smuggle in weapons.

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Sinwar speaking at a rally.

Israel is offering a $400,000 bounty for the capture of Yahya Sinwar. (Mohammed Talatene/picture alliance via Getty Images)

The Biden administration has thus far opposed Israel’s war plan to defeat Hamas in Rafah because of concerns of civilian deaths.

Hamas retains four battalions in Rafah coupled with thousands of terrorist fighters. While the Rafah operation looms, complex negotiations are unfolding in Cairo and may slow the pace of Israel’s efforts to root out Hamas terrorists in the city populated with more than a million Palestinians.

David Wurmser, a former senior adviser for nonproliferation and Middle East strategy for former Vice President Dick Cheney, said about Sinwar’s use of hostages that “the holding of hostages – since he values their lives nil – is nothing more than, say, a soldier taking cover behind a tree or rock when under heavy fire. It is not cowardice, but an intelligent and primordial impulse. He has no more empathy for a hostage than a soldier does for the rock. Indeed, the same with the ‘innocent’ Palestinian civilians.”

UN, HUMAN RIGHTS, MEDIA GROUPS RELY ON HAMAS DEATH TOLL IN ‘SYSTEMATIC DECEPTION’: EXPERT

Sinwar waving at a group of supporters at a rally.

An Israeli official said the IDF was close to killing Sinwar over the last few months. (Mustafa Hassona/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

“All is part of a very sober and rational strategy. And given the amount he has taken control of Israeli and U.S. policy with hostages and human shields, it’s a very rational strategy,” Wurmser added. “We consider it cruel – but that requires empathy, which he is devoid of, and immoral, but that implies that advancing Islam at all costs is the ultimate morality and the filter for determining whether an action is moral or not.”

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Yaakov Katz, a senior fellow at the Jewish People Policy Institute who was a former editor-in-chief of the Jerusalem Post, where he remains a columnist, told Fox News Digital that Sinwar is crafty and ruthless.

“Sinwar has played Israel very smartly since Oct. 7, sometimes seeming as if he understands Israel better than Israel understands itself. He has used the hostages effectively to achieve his goals and has managed to keep himself always a step ahead of the IDF in its efforts to capture or kill him.”

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