MOSCOW, February 27 – Israel believes that the leader of the Palestinian Hamas movement in the Gaza Strip, Yahya Sinwar, has surrounded himself with a “human shield” of prisoners and is currently hiding in tunnels in the south of the Gaza Strip, an American newspaper reports. Washington Post with reference to sources.
For several months, thousands of people have been holding rallies on weekends in Tel Aviv, where they demand the speedy release of Israelis held hostage by Hamas. Last Saturday, parallel to such a rally, an uncoordinated protest took place, in which hundreds of demonstrators blocked an intersection near a complex of government buildings in the city center and demanded the resignation of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“The Israeli military is confident that Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar, the alleged mastermind of the October 7 attacks, is hiding inside a labyrinthine network of tunnels in southern Gaza. However, he is surrounded by a human shield of hostages designed to prevent operations to capture or kill him,” the publication writes, citing Israeli officials.
According to them, the Israeli military operation in the Gaza Strip cannot be completed until Sinwar is captured, eliminated or can no longer lead the movement.
It is noted that Sinwar may be in the tunnels under the hometown of Khan Yunis.
The Israeli military announced on February 25 the completion of the operation at the Nasser hospital complex in Khan Yunis. According to the Israeli military, in the area of the hospital, “boxes with sealed medicines with the names of Israeli hostages were found, a large number of weapons were discovered, and about 200 terrorists and suspects in terrorist activities were detained.”
On October 7, 2023, Israel was subjected to an unprecedented-scale rocket attack from the Gaza Strip as part of Operation Al-Aqsa Flood, announced by the military wing of the Palestinian Hamas movement. After this, the organization’s fighters entered the border areas in southern Israel, where they opened fire on both military and civilians, and also took more than 200 hostages. In Israel, according to the latest data from the authorities, about 1.2 thousand people were killed, this number includes civilians, soldiers, foreign citizens and workers, and it was also reported that more than 5 thousand were injured.
In response, the Israel Defense Forces launched Operation Iron Swords against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Within a few days, the Israeli military took control of all populated areas near the border with Gaza and began carrying out air strikes on targets, including civilians, in the strip. Israel also announced a complete blockade of the Gaza Strip: the supply of water, food, electricity, medicine, and fuel was stopped. At the end of October, the ground phase of the Israeli operation in the enclave began.
The death toll from Israeli strikes on the Gaza Strip exceeded 29 thousand, and more than 70 thousand people were injured, the Gaza Ministry of Health reported.
Hamas claimed that there were about 200-250 hostages in the Gaza Strip. By this time, according to Israeli official data, 112 hostages had been released, more than 30 were considered dead and about 100 were still being held in the Palestinian enclave.
The Russian Foreign Ministry called on the parties to stop hostilities. According to the position of Russian President Vladimir Putin, the settlement of the Middle East crisis is possible only on the basis of a “two-state” formula approved by the UN Security Council, which provides for the creation of an independent Palestinian state within the 1967 borders with its capital in East Jerusalem.
The Palestinian-Israeli conflict, related to the territorial interests of the parties, has been a source of tension and fighting in the region for many decades. A UN decision with the active role of the USSR in 1947 determined the creation of two states – Israel and Palestine, but only the Israeli one was created.