OpinionIsrael at War

Yahya Sinwar’s false hopes for survival

If the Hamas chief believes that condemnation of IDF actions in Gaza is going to end the war and leave him in power, he’s existing in a pre-Oct. 7 universe.

Yahya Sinwar, leader of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, at a rally in Gaza City, May 24, 2021. Photo by Atia Mohammed/Flash90.
Yahya Sinwar, leader of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, at a rally in Gaza City, May 24, 2021. Photo by Atia Mohammed/Flash90.
Ruthie Blum. Credit: Courtesy.
Ruthie Blum
Ruthie Blum, an author and award-winning columnist, is a former adviser at the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

According to a Wall Street Journal report on Thursday, Yahya Sinwar sent a message to his concerned counterparts hiding out in Qatar that they need not worry about Hamas losses in the war.

On the contrary, the Gaza Hamas chief who masterminded the Oct. 7 massacre assured, “We have the Israelis right where we want them.”

This statement, like the rest of Sinwar’s memo, reportedly delivered via courier during a meeting last month of Hamas honchos in Doha, was a paraphrased summary conveyed by anonymous sources supposedly informed of the event.

If the WSJ’s sources are to be trusted, Sinwar indicated that he and his goons were looking forward to a ground invasion by the Israel Defense Forces in Rafah—you know, the operation necessary for destroying Hamas’s last six battalions and finding the 134 remaining hostages.

The mere prospect of the move is causing global apoplexy, due to the estimated 1.2 million people residing in Rafah who would be at great risk if not relocated. But, as the WSJ’s sources imparted, incurring mass casualties is precisely what Sinwar wants, since he knows that the higher the death toll in Gaza, the greater the pressure will be on Israel to stop the war.

No sane observer of Hamas could possibly be surprised by this revelation, regardless of the reliability of the report. Sinwar is evil, but he’s far from stupid.

Not only does he speak fluent Hebrew, thanks to his cushy conditions during the 22 years he spent in an Israeli prison, where, in 2008, Israeli surgeons removed a tumor on his brain.

Since his release in 2011 as part of the Gilad Shalit deal, he has followed Israeli politics and behavior, familiarizing himself with the Achilles heels of the Jewish state, in particular, and of the West, in general.

This has made him well-versed in asymmetric warfare against an enemy with values that are anathema to his core. These include holding human beings in esteem and being disturbed by their suffering.

Indeed, as he recounted to interrogators after his arrest in 1989 for killing multiple Palestinians suspected of “collaborating” with Israel, his preferred methods of murder were strangulation and suffocation.

Ironically, then, while the international community bemoans the plight of the people of Gaza, Sinwar revels in it. Just as he must have been condescendingly amused when Israelis saved his life—rather than snuffing it out, as he would have done in their position—he is now pleased by the mounting Palestinian body count.

That the number of non-combatant casualties is among the lowest in military history, even by U.N. standards, is irrelevant to the sadist who perpetrated the most heinous atrocities against Jews since the Holocaust. He is aware that all it has taken to erase the footage of Hamas terrorists gleefully raping, burning, mutilating and desecrating the corpses of hundreds of innocent Israelis are graphic images of wounded children and dead babies among the rubble in Khan Yunis.

Such photos-gone-viral have even been sufficient to make the “Ceasefire Now” chorus drown out the cries of the families of the starved and sexually abused hostages. In the best case, Israel’s detractors say that neither Hamas’s genocidal deeds on Oct. 7 nor the ongoing captivity of men, women and children justifies IDF actions in Gaza.

Worse charges are that what befell Israel five months ago was the result of the “occupation.” Never mind that the Israeli government forcibly withdrew all Jews from the Strip in 2005 and removed IDF presence there.

The basest allegations are those lodged by the hateful crowds chanting, “From the River to the Sea, Palestine Must Be Free.”

Their aspiration is for the eradication of the democratic State of Israel, not the bloodthirsty Iranian proxy reigning over a populace whom it has taught to glorify the slaughter of Jews. Is it any wonder, then, that Hamas apologists in New York and London tear down and trample on posters of the hostages?

Is it the least bit mystifying that no Gazans have tried to help the hostages by revealing their whereabouts? The answer is no.

As of now, nobody in the Strip is likely to gain future recognition as a member of the “Righteous Among the Nations.” Fear of torture by Sinwar is one explanation. Support for his brutality is another.

Examples of the latter were on full display during the Oct. 7 massacre. They were prominent, as well, when Red Cross mini-vans transported tranches of released hostages in the following weeks.

Thus far, Israel has shown incredible fortitude in the face of Sinwar’s manipulation of fellow travelers abroad. Jerusalem has even managed to withstand tongue-wagging about the “humanitarian crisis” in Gaza.

One way it has attempted to stave off the false accusations of genocide is to enable the delivery of food and medicine to the Strip. This, however, hasn’t halted the admonitions from friends—or threats from foes—about the consequences of continued IDF activity.

Right on Sinwar’s cue, Israel is blamed for Hamas’s theft of the aid meant for civilians. It is currently being condemned by the United Nations for the death-by-stampede of Gazans descending violently on the trucks delivering the goods.

Glaringly absent from the din is a reference to the malnourished, injured hostages subsisting on half a pita per day. Under these circumstances, Sinwar might well be imagining that his gambit to end the war and stay in power has paid off. If so, he’s existing in a pre-Oct. 7 universe.

Israelis never needed a piece in The Wall Street Journal to shine light on Sinwar’s mindset. Today, they are battling to deal it—and him—a fatal blow.

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