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Elusive Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar reportedly left Gaza tunnels, met with terrorists

Former Shin Bet official casts doubt on reports, calls it ‘media spin’

Yahya Sinwar, the Gaza Strip chief of the Palestinian Islamist Hamas movement, arrives at a rally marking Al-Quds (Jerusalem) Day, April 14, 2023. (Photo: Mohammed Talatene/DPA via Reuters)

The London-based Saudi newspaper Al-Araby Al-Jadeed reported on Wednesday that Hamas leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, temporarily left the tunnels in Rafah to meet with Hamas terrorists and conduct inspections. 

The newspaper cited “a leading source in the Hamas movement” who claimed that reports of Sinwar’s death or incapacitation were premature. 

The Hamas source reportedly said that Sinwar “is not isolated from reality there, despite the ongoing war and Israeli intelligence operations that do not stop throughout the day.” 

He said Sinwar “is carrying out his work as a leader of the movement in the field,” and that the Gaza leader had “recently inspected areas that witnessed clashes between the resistance and the occupation army, and met some of the movement’s fighters on the ground and not in the tunnels.” 

The source also stated that any reports of Sinwar's isolation in the tunnels are "nothing but an allegation by Netanyahu and his agencies to cover up their failure to achieve the goals declared before the Israeli public and his allies.” 

A video, reportedly depicting Sinwar’s movements through Rafah – and meeting with various leaders in the southern town – was released to social media. However, some international media organizations stated the video is mostly a compilation of older footage from before the Oct. 7 Hamas invasion and attack on Israel.

The head of the Arab world, reporting for Israel’s KAN 11 News, called the video a fake. 

“There is no new documentation of Sinwar walking around Gaza,” said Roi Kais. “All the pictures that are running are old. What was true was a claim by a Hamas source in a conversation with a pro-Qatari newspaper that he had recently been walking around the battle zones.” 

Itai Blumenthal, KAN's military correspondent, confirmed this assessment. 

“The photo that has been circulating on social media in recent hours, showing Sinwar ‘walking around Gaza outside the tunnels,’ was taken in 2017,” Blumenthal said. 

The Hamas source also claimed that reports about Hamas changing the number of hostages it was willing to release in the first phase of a negotiated agreement were not true. However, he did confirm it was not possible for Hamas to “accurately determine the number of living hostages.” 

The Hostage and Missing Families Forum responded to the announcement about Sinwar with an attack on the Israeli government.

“The news of Sinwar's departure to the streets of Gaza has been checked as credible by intelligence officials. His exit from deep inside the tunnels, where the abductees are still located, is the picture of Israeli failure, whether it was filmed or not," the Forum said in a statement. 

However, Micah Kobi, a former Shin Bet official – and Sinwar’s interrogator during his time in an Israeli jail – called the reports “media spin.” 

“Hamas's discourse in the media, especially the report on Sinwar's exit from the tunnels, is nothing more than a media ‘spin,’” Kobi said.

“They now know that the most likely is that the IDF will enter Rafah, so by means of false information they are trying to confuse us and divert us from our main targets there.” 

He claimed this disinformation is typical of Hamas’ behavior in previous conflicts. 

“Before every military or diplomatic move, every time that Israel declares a military goal, Hamas tries to befuddle us.” 

Kobi referred to Hamas’ “culture of lies,” saying: “At the end of the day, military research officials know which statements should be given importance – and which statements are false.” 

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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