Israel to form unit tasked with killing Hamas leaders

In response to the recent Hamas attack, Israel launched a special operation to locate and neutralize the terrorist group’s leaders.

Following the devastating Hamas attack in southern Israel on October 7, Mossad and the Shin Bet have established a special operations center dedicated to locating and eliminating members of the Hamas commando unit responsible for the assault.

According to Ynet, the unit bears the name “Nili,” referring to a clandestine Jewish organization from the First World War and an acronym in Hebrew that means “the Eternal of Israel will not lie.”

The report details that the center’s primary mission is to eliminate Nukbha fighters involved in the surprise attack, during which approximately 2,500 terrorists entered Israel and massacred more than 1,400 people, mostly civilians. Additionally, the attackers took 210 individuals hostage in Gaza.

Israel to form unit tasked with killing Hamas leadersYaha Sinwar (C), head of the Gaza Strip of the Hamas terrorist movement, shakes hands with a masked fighter from the military wing during a demonstration marking the 35th anniversary of the founding of the Palestinian Islamist group, in Gaza City on 14 December 2022. (Mohammed Abed/AFP)

Since the attack, the Israel Defense Forces have confirmed the deaths of several Nukbha commanders, including prominent figures such as Billal al-Qedra and Ali Qadhi. Recently, it was reported that more than 10 Nukhba members were eliminated in attacks in the Gaza Strip.

Amid preparations for a possible ground offensive, Israel has made clear that all Hamas members are targets.

Among the most wanted are Muhammad Deif, Hamas’s military commander, and Yahya Sinwar, the group’s political leader. Israeli authorities have emphasized that the search for these individuals will be relentless.

“Hamas terrorists have two options: Be killed or surrender unconditionally. There is no third option,” Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said in a statement that underlines the severity of the Israeli position.

In response, Hamas spokesmen have declared that the group is “not afraid,” defying Israel’s warnings. According to security sources, Deif and Sinwar are currently hiding within a complex network of tunnels, prepared to withstand the intense bombing campaign launched after the attacks that shook Israeli communities and military bases on the border.

Israel to form unit tasked with killing Hamas leadersHamas military commander Muhammad Deif (courtesy)

Israel has singled out Yahya Sinwar, leader of Hamas in Gaza since 2017, and Muhammad Deif, the group’s military commander, as central figures in its response to terrorist attacks carried out by Hamas. Lieutenant Colonel Richard Hecht, a military spokesman, did not hide the seriousness of Israel’s intentions when he referred to Sinwar as a “dead man walking.”

Yahya Sinwar, known for his advocacy of armed struggle since the founding of Hamas in 1987, was imprisoned in Israel for 23 years before being freed in a prisoner exchange in 2011. Both he and Deif, originally from Gaza, have been on the list of most wanted terrorists by the United States since 2015.

Muhammad Deif, a sworn enemy of Israel and leader of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, has remained largely unknown, avoiding public attention and surviving multiple assassination attempts. His profile was raised following an audio message broadcast by Hamas media, vowing to continue the offensive against Israel.

Despite serious injuries sustained over the years, including the loss of an eye and disabilities, Deif has maintained significant influence within Hamas. His history with the group dates back to the 1980s, and his notoriety increased after assuming control of the military wing in 2002.

After the bloody events of October 7, Israel has been explicit in its warnings. “All Hamas members are dead men,” declared Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, underscoring the intensity of the current situation.

Although the elimination of Sinwar and Deif could be a blow to Hamas, experts such as HA Hellyer of the Royal United Services Institute in London point out that this will not mean the end of the terrorist group. “The structure of Hamas allows for the contingency of continuing even in the face of the loss of its key leaders,” Hellyer explained, suggesting a built-in resilience within the militant organization.

Therefore, the search for Deif and Sinwar represents a critical moment in the protracted fighting in the region, with implications that will likely be felt far beyond the borders of Israel and Gaza.