Yahya Sinwar, 60, is the current head of Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
He has been arrested by Israel multiple times and spent 24 years in Israeli prisons: he was freed in 2011, as part of a prisoner swap in exchange for Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.
Sinwar is being held responsible for the murder of 1,300 Israelis in the October 7 attack. The U.S. death toll rose to 29 on Saturday, with 15 missing, believed to be held hostage inside Gaza.
‘Yahya Sinwar is the face of evil,’ said Lt. Col. Richard Hecht, a spokesman for the IDF.
‘He is the mastermind behind this, like bin Laden was.
‘He built his career on murdering Palestinians when he understood they were collaborators. That’s how he became known as the butcher of Khan Younis [in southern Gaza].’
Yahya Sinwar is pictured in April 2022 speaking at a meeting in Gaza City. He has been described as the mastermind of the October 7 terror attack
Sinwar was likened to Osama bin Laden, the al-Qaeda leader killed by U.S. Navy SEALS in May 2011
Lt. Col. Richard Hecht, a spokesman for the IDF, said that Sinwar was their bin Laden
The death toll has topped 1,000 in Israel as the country plots a bloody revenge on the people of Gaza
Hecht said that Israeli troops would not rest until he was found and killed.
‘That man and his whole team are in our sights. We will get to that man,’ he said, adding: ‘This could be long.’
Sinwar was designated a terrorist by the United States in 2015.
Hecht spoke as the Israel Air Force killed Merad Abu Merad, Hamas’s head of aerial activity, in Gaza City.
The Israel Air Force also struck dozens of members and facilities of Hamas’s Nuhba elite terrorist commando unit that were involved in the assault.
On Saturday, Hamas political leader Ismail Haniyeh met with Iran’s foreign minister, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, in Qatar.
Iran is a supporter of Hamas, but its direct involvement in the terror attack remains disputed.
It does not exercise the same operational control over Hamas as it does over Hezbollah, based in Lebanon.
Sinwar is seen in 2011 being hugged and kissed by Palestinians on release from an Israeli prison
Sinwar was exchanged with hundreds of other Palestinians for Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who was captured in June 2006 and held for five years
A picture taken from Sderot shows smoke plumes rising above buildings during an Israeli strike on the northern Gaza Strip on Saturday, as Israel pummels Gaza in preparation for a land invasion
A fireball erupts during Israeli bombardment in the northern Gaza Strip on Saturday
Troops remove the bodies of victims, killed during an attack by Hamas terrorists in Kfar Aza, on Tuesday
Hamas left a trail of devastation at a series of kibbutzes near the border with Gaza, including children’s beds soaked in blood
IDF Lotar unit soldiers are slowly checking the Kfar Aza kibbutz, passing from one house to another to clear them from any ammunition or threat. It was here that Hamas terrorists massacred families in their homes
A house is completely destroyed after being burned by Hamas terrorists during the attack at Kibbutz Be’eri, near the border with Gaza on October 11, 2023 in Be’eri, Israel
An Israeli soldier breaks down in tears at the sight of a family dining table on which there is still Challah bread from Friday’s Kiddush at the Kfar Aza kibbutz. Hamas terrorists massacred families here on Saturday
Since the Hamas incursion, the bloodiest single day in Israel’s 75-year history, the Israeli military says it has mobilized 360,000 reservists.
On Saturday, two U.S. sources told CNN that a second carrier strike group is moving to the region, after the first – led by the USS Gerald R. Ford – arrived off the coast of Israel earlier this week.
The USS Dwight D. Eisenhower strike group will join the Ford, having changed its plans to move toward the US European Command and deployed instead to the Middle East, leaving its Norfolk, Virginia, base on Friday.
The U.S. warships are not intended to join the fighting in Gaza or take part in Israel’s operations, Pentagon officials stress.
But the presence of two of the Navy’s most powerful ships is designed to send a message of deterrence to Iran and Iranian proxies in the region, such as Hezbollah in Lebanon.
The USS Gerald R. Ford is the world’s largest aircraft carrier. It is now off the coast of Israel
‘Merkava’ battle tanks muster today at a gathering site at an undisclosed location along the border with Gaza
Addressing a Human Rights Campaign dinner Saturday in Washington, President Joe Biden linked the humanitarian crisis in Gaza to different versions of hate that he said must be stopped.
‘A week ago we saw hate manifest another way in the worst massacre of the Jewish people since the Holocaust,’ Biden said, citing the 1,300 lives lost in Israel as well as ‘children, grandparents alike kidnapped, held hostage by Hamas.’
‘The humanitarian crisis in Gaza – innocent Palestinian families and the vast majority that have nothing to do with Hamas – they’re being used as human shields,’ he said.
‘We have to reject hate in every form.’
Hundreds of thousands remained trapped inside Gaza, with the only functioning way out – the border with Egypt – closed.
Egypt insisted their side was open, but the Hamas-controlled side was shut.
Wael Abu Omar, the Palestinian spokesman for the Rafah crossing, confirmed by text message to The New York Times that the crossing was closed.
Egypt remains wary about having a permanent population of displaced people on their territory, and are worried about the destabilizing effects on their own country, which is in severe economic crisis.
On Thursday, Egypt’s president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, said Gazans must ‘stay steadfast and remain on their land.’
The king of Jordan, King Abdullah II, warned Antony Blinken, the U.S. Secretary of State, on Friday in a meeting in Amman that there should be no attempt to forcibly remove Palestinians.
His wife, Queen Rania, was born in Kuwait to Palestinian refugee parents, and was raised in the West Bank.
Cars made a desperate exodus south ahead of an anticipated Israeli invasion
Palestinians, who fled their houses amid Israeli strikes, shelter at a United Nations-run school in Gaza on Saturday
Rescuers bring a Palestinian boy to hospital in Gaza today following an Israeli air strike
Palestinians wait at the Rafah border crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt
A Palestinian family gather their possessions on Saturday and prepare to flee the upcoming ground offensive
Since Hamas – which controls Gaza – launched its terror attack on October 7, killing 1,300 Israelis, about 2,215 people have been killed in Gaza and more than 8,714 have been injured, according to Palestinian officials.
More Palestinians have been killed so far in 2023 than in 2014, when more than 2,000 were killed in a 50-day war.
Martin Griffiths, the United Nations humanitarian chief, said that he fears ‘that the worst is yet to come,’ and warned that the humanitarian situation in Gaza ‘is fast becoming untenable.’
The statement added that ‘the past week has been a test for humanity, and humanity is failing.’
The World Health Organization called Israel’s evacuation orders to hospitals in northern Gaza ‘a death sentence for the sick and injured.’
Israel is expected to launch its ground invasion at any moment.
Daniel Hagari, the Israeli military spokesman, told the country to expect ‘challenging weeks’ ahead as the military operation escalated.
The goal, he said, was ‘the defeat of Hamas and the elimination of its leaders.’