Daniel Braun
's TOI Blog

Who is who in Hamas? pt.2

The 4 leaders in Gaza

1. Yahya Sinwar

Retrieved from:

Born: 1962, Khan Younis Refugee Camp, Gaza Strip

Current position: leader of Hamas in the Gaza Strip and member of the Political Bureau of Hamas

Yahya Sinwar was born in Khan Younis, southern Gaza Strip in 1962. His parents were 1948 Palestinian refugees from Ashkelon. He did his basic studies at the Khan Younis Secondary School for Boys. He later studied for a Bachelor’s at the Islamic University of Gaza in the Arabic language.

He started his life as a political activist very young, around age 18 with the Muslim Brotherhood in Khan Younis, which was very popular in this city at that time. He got arrested in 1982, at age 19, and again in 1985. During this period, he became a close confidant of the Sheikh Ahmed Yassin.

Between 1988-1989 he was commanded by the Sheikh with the task of establishing Hamas’ internal security organization, known as Al-Majd. Al-Majd used to gather intelligence mainly on Palestinian collaborators with Israel but was also in charge of issues related to the lack of Islamic morals in society, like the distribution of sexual videos. Yassin is accused of murdering suspects of collaboration, even with his own hands. According to Israeli officials, he confessed to punishing a suspect of collaboration by getting the collaborator’s brother to bury him alive.

One of the most famous cases of Al Majd was the case of Maher Abu Srur. He was recruited by the Shin Bet as a collaborator inside Hamas, but in reality, he worked as a double agent. He eventually murdered the Shin Bet agent in charge of him in a safe house in Jerusalem.

In 1988, Sinwar was arrested again for allegedly planning the abduction and murder of 2 Israeli soldiers. He spent 22 years in prison, where he spent his time terrorizing people within the prison and learning everything about the enemy. He learned how to speak Hebrew fluently during this time. He was sentenced to 5 lifetimes but was released in 2011 during Gilad Shalit’s release deal. Muhammad Sinwar, his brother was one of Shalit’s kidnappers.

Right after his release, he returned to work actively within Hamas, more radicalized than ever. He started rising within the movement. In 2017 he became Hamas’ leader in the Gaza Strip replacing Ismail Haniyeh, and still holds the position today. Since he was elected Hamas’ leader in the strip, he has focused on establishing better relationships with foreign countries, mainly Egypt.

He is considered to be the main mastermind behind the October 7th attack, which has made him the most wanted terrorist in Israel’s current military operation in Gaza. It is unclear where he is found today, but everything points to him being still inside Gaza, probably in the southern city of Rafah or Khan Younis. The IDF believes he is surrounded by Israeli hostages. There have been different reports about him. A report by the Arabic news outlet Elaph stated that he had escaped to Egypt, but the IDF has dismissed this claim. There have also been claims that he has lost contact with Hamas’ leadership outside of Gaza.

Throughout Sinwar’s life, some people have considered him a psychopath. Other people have talked about him as a very clever person. He is broadly considered to be truly committed to Hamas’ ideal of destroying Israel through Islam, and is a very religious and ideological leader, but also relies heavily on pragmatism as a tool. Nir Dvori, N12’s military analyst said on live TV that Sinwar is probably still inside Gaza because he is committed to his purpose, and is willing to die as a martyr.

2. Muhammad Sinwar

Retrieved from:

Born: 1975, Khan Younis refugee camp, Gaza Strip

Current position: Commander of Hamas’ military wing in southern Khan Younis

Yahya Sinwar’s younger brother, Muhammad was born in 1975 in Khan Younis in the Gaza Strip. He was educated in UNRWA schools. Muhammad was so inspired by his older brother’s activism with the Muslim Brotherhood, that he joined Hamas when it was founded in 1987, he was only 12 years old. He was part of Hamas’ terrorist efforts during the first Intifada from 1987-1993, and one of the first people to join Hamas’ military wing, the Al-Qassam Martyrs Brigades. Allegedly, he is responsible for many murderous terror attacks during the 90’s.

In the late 90’s he was arrested by the Palestinian Authority for his role in terror attacks and his activism within Hamas. He stayed in prison for 3 years and left in the year 2000. After he got out of prison, he took an essential part in the rebuilding of the Al-Qassam brigades, which were very damaged after an extensive campaign by the PA against them in the 90’s.

In 2005, he became the commander of the Khan Younis brigades. Muhammed worked closely and became an important confidant of his commanders, Muhammed Deif and Marwan Issa. In 2006 he was among those responsible for the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit. When he managed to release his older brother from prison, after the Shalit exchange in 2011, he stated that it had been a successful operation and that this should be the way of releasing every Palestinian prisoner.

After this, he was also part of the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers (Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin, both were murdered and Hamas is still holding their bodies) and two civilians (Avera Mengistu and Hisham Al-Sayed) during the Tzuk Eitan military operation in 2014.

During his lifetime, Muhammad has survived several assassination attempts by the IDF. One of the first attempts was in the year 2003. Another one was in 2014 during Tzuk Eitan, and he was declared dead by the IDF for some years. The last attempt was in 2021 during Operation Guardian of the Walls.

Thanks to several attempts of assassination, Sinwar has managed to live a very secret life. He limits his movements and communications inside the strip to avoid being caught by the IDF. He even failed to attend his father’s funeral, afraid of being eliminated there.

He is currently hidden somewhere in Gaza, possibly in a tunnel in Rafah or Khan Younis. On October 7th he publically declared that: “The movement has finally decided to put an end to the occupation”. He was recently seen in a video inside a vehicle in a tunnel.

3. Mohammed Deif

Retrieved from:

Born: 1965, Khan Younis, Gaza Strip

Current position: Commander of Hamas’ military wing

There is very little known about Mohamed Deif in the last decades. He was originally known as Muhammad Diab Al-Nasri, but chose to be known as Deif, which in Arabic means “visitor”. He was born in 1965 in Khan Younis, in the Gaza Strip, and his parents were refugees of the 1948 war from a village near Jerusalem. He lived very close to Yahya Sinwar and Muhammad Dahlan (a future leader of Fatah) and was friends with both of them.

Deif studied Chemistry in the late 80’s at the Islamic University of Gaza. He joined Hamas some weeks after it was founded in 1987. He was arrested in 1989 and spent 16 months in administrative detention. After he was released, he took an important role in the creation of Hamas’ military wing, the Al-Qassam brigades.

During the 90’s suicidal terrorist wave, Deif used his studies in chemistry to help manufacture explosive belts. During this terror wave, Israel started building the fence around the Gaza Strip, which posed a challenge to the terrorist group. Deif started experimenting with rocket design as a new means of terrorist resistance, his first attempts failed but became the basis for Hamas’ tactic for many years.

In 1996, after the commander of the Al-Qassam brigades was killed by the IDF, Deif was named his successor. The previous commander was killed through a planted explosive in his cell phone, so it is believed that Deif never again used one. When he inherited the military wing, it was a very small one. He decided to turn it into a real army, mainly by organizing loose armed cells into real military units. He largely succeeded, by the year 2000 there were already 1500 men, and by 2023 there were around 40,000.

After the collapse of the Oslo negotiations in the early 2000s, Deif became a hero among the Palestinian public. During the 2nd Intifada, from 2000-2005, he managed to evade Israel, so he gained the nickname of Al-Shabah, the phantom. He survived assassination attempts in 2001 and 2002, that left him very wounded, and it is believed that he lost an eye and two extremities. In 2006 he survived a third assassination attempt, but he got his skull injured, so he had to leave the command and get treatment in Egypt.

During his treatment and the following years, Deif was very unhappy with Hamas’ behavior. He felt that their takeover of the Gaza Strip had turned the movement into a political entity, instead of a military one. He also disliked very much his successor, Ahmad Jabari. He thought he negotiated a lot with the enemy, instead of leading a real armed struggle. Jabari was killed by Israel in the year 2012.

After Jabari’s assassination, Deif returned as commander of the military wing along with Marwan Issa and restarted what he understood as the real struggle against Israel. He started the project of building a real underground city through tunnels. Under Deif’s leadership, Hamas gained a lot of capacity. He was also responsible for establishing relations with the Iranians, and he is even reported to have met with Kasem Soleimani and got advice from him on the Tunnel project.

In 2014, during the Tzuk Eitan Operation, Deif managed to display that Hamas was a serious military organization that could sustain a long war against Israel. During this operation, he survived yet another assassination attempt. This time, his wife and 2 of his children died. It is believed that he did not attend their funerals.

When Sinwar became Hamas’ leader in Gaza, together, they made sure that the military struggle against Israel would be the priority of Hamas in Gaza.

Little is known about him in general, and specifically after October 7th. He played an essential role in the military planning behind this attack. He was seen in a picture in December, and he was only missing an eye, but apparently, he could walk very well. He is one of the top commanders wanted by Israel.

4. Marwan Issa

Retrieved from:

Born: 1965, Bureij refugee camp, Gaza Strip

Current position: deputy leader of Hamas’ military wing

There is very little known about Marwan Issa, both from his youth and the last decades. He was born in 1965 in the Bureij refugee camp in the Gaza Strip. His parents were refugees from the 1948 war from a village near Ashkelon.

Issa joined the Muslim Brotherhood in Gaza in the 80’s, even before the creation of Hamas. He was detained by Israel throughout the first Intifada from 1987-1993, for 5 years. He is accused of helping organize suicide attacks in the 90’s, and was arrested by the Palestinian Authority in 1997. He was released with the outbreak of the second Intifada in the year 2000.

After his release, Issa took part in Hamas’ struggle against Jewish Israeli settlers in Gaza. He was in charge of improving Hamas’ military wing structure, and the development of the early rocket system. Issa created special units within the military wing that he trained personally and eventually became their commander.

In 2006 he was part of Shalit’s kidnapping, and in 2011 he was a very important figure in the negotiations to release him. The Israeli intelligence has indications that he fled with Mahmoud Al-Zaher to both Iran and Lebanon and met with Iranian and Hezbollah leaders to establish and strengthen ties between Hamas and them.

Issa has survived at least 3 assassination attempts. An assassination attempt in the year 2006, injured several Hamas leaders, but Issa remained intact. In 2008 he survived another one, but his son got injured, and Egypt refused to treat him. Ever since, he has lived in a very secret way, to try and avoid these attempts against his life.

After the assassination of Jabari, he was officially appointed Hamas’ military wing leader. In reality, he became the deputy of Deif, who became the de facto commander of the Al-Qassam brigades.

He is believed to have played a key role in the planning of the October 7th attack. Ever since the attack, he has been one of Israel’s most wanted terrorists. The IDF killed his son Muhammad Issa in late December 2023.


About the Author
Hi! This is Daniel Braun, a young Jew and proud zionist from Mexico learning about his background and other stuff, and trying to make an impact in this world. I hope you enjoy my ideas!
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