Israeli forces have surrounded the leader of Hamas in Gaza in a bunker and are “tightening the chokehold” around Gaza City, the Israeli defence minister has said.
In a televised press statement, Yoav Gallant said that Israeli ground troops had stormed the terrorist group’s strongholds in Gaza’s main population centre “from all directions, in perfect co-ordination with maritime and aerial forces”.
He also said that Yahya Sinwar, Hamas’s leader in Gaza who has been described by Israeli officials as “a dead man walking,” was surrounded, although he did not specify where.
Sinwar, 61, was “hiding in his bunker ... without contact with his associates”, Gallant said, before vowing again to eliminate him.
Gallant also said that neither Israel nor Hamas would rule Gaza after the war. He added that hostages held by Hamas and other militant groups would need to be released before the was any pause in the fighting.
“Humanitarian pauses, to me, means first and foremost the captives held by animals,” he said. “There will be no humanitarian truce without [the return of] the hostages.”
Sinwar, 61, has long been a priority target for Israeli forces and has been even more important since Hamas’s surprise attack on Israel on October 7.
He is thought to have been one of the key planners of that attack. He spent 22 years in Israeli prisons after being convicted in 1989 of the murders of two Israel Defence Forces soldiers and four Palestinians said by Hamas to have been working with Israel.
He was released in 2011 as part of the prisoner swap deal in which Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier held in Gaza, was released after five years as a hostage. Sinwar was first appointed in 2017 as Hamas’s leader in Gaza, handing over the job that year. He returned in 2021 and survived an Israeli assassination months later.
Israeli troops have continued their advance into Gaza City and are engaged in fighting close to the al-Shifa hospital, the territory’s largest hospital.
Soldiers were nearing the hospital said by Israel to sit on top of Hamas’s headquarters, which the group denies. It was also reported that Israeli forces had targeted the solar panel system at a building in al-Shifa, in the neighbourhood of North Rimal.