Israel: Hamas leader’s cornered in his bunker
ISRAEL’S military surrounded a top Hamas leader in his bunker last night as operations continued to clear Gaza City of the terrorists.
Yahya Sinwar – who has been described as the ‘ Bin Laden of Hamas’ – is said to have been cut off by troops.
Defence minister Yoav Gallant confirmed Israel Defence Forces (IDF) were operating in the heart of Gaza City following a four-hour pause in the fighting to allow civilians to escape.
He told a press conference: ‘ IDF forces... came from the north and the south. They stormed it in full coordination between land, air and sea forces.
‘They are manoeuvring on foot [and are using] armoured vehicles and tanks, along with military engineers from all directions, and they have one target – Hamas terrorists in Gaza, their infrastructure, their commanders, bunkers, communication rooms.
‘They are tightening the noose around Gaza City.’
Mr Gallant added Sinwar was
‘in his bunker, cut off from his surroundings, his chain of command increasingly severed’.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday repeated his vow that there would be no ceasefire unless Hamas releases hostages.
Grieving Israelis gathered to mark one month since the October 7 atrocities as tanks encircled Gaza City, thought to be the nerve centre of Hamas’s terrorist operation and where the militants use a huge network of tunnels to move around.
Remaining residents were given from 10am to 2pm local time to leave the area yesterday, with some escaping past the waiting tanks. The Israeli military had announced: ‘For your safety, take this next opportunity to move south beyond Wadi Gaza.’
Adam Fayez Zeyara, one of the fleeing residents, posted a selfie on the road out of the city, saying: ‘The most dangerous trip in my life. We saw the tanks from point blank. We saw decomposed body parts. We saw death.’
Israeli tanks were said to have surrounded the city by cover of night; their path cleared by the relentless air and artillery strikes responsible for much of the civilian death toll in Gaza, now alleged to be in excess of 10,000.
It came as Mr Netanyahu continued to defy mounting international pressure to temper his military ambitions, which so far are nothing short of the total destruction of Hamas.
In an apparent concession to Western allies who have grown uneasy by the spiralling civilian death toll, he said Israel would consider ‘tactical little pauses’ in fighting to let hostages leave or aid enter.
But he again flatly rejected calls for a ceasefire, saying there would be no end to hostilities until Hamas releases the 240 hostages captured during its bloody rampage across southern Israel.
He also offered the first glimpse of Israel’s plan should the military succeed in ousting Hamas from power in Gaza, saying it would oversee security in the densely populated, 25 mile-long slither of Palestinian land.
‘ Israel will, for an indefinite period... have the overall security responsibility,’ he said. ‘When we don’t have that security responsibility, what we have is the eruption of Hamas terror on a scale that we couldn’t imagine.’
He added: ‘There will be no ceasefire – general ceasefire – in Gaza, without the release of our hostages. As far as tactical, little pauses – an hour here, an hour there – we’ve had them before.
‘I suppose we’ll check the circumstances in order to enable goods, humanitarian goods, to come in or our hostages, individual hostages, to leave.’
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken continued his shuttle diplomacy yesterday as he arrived in Japan for a meeting of G7 foreign ministers with a view to seeking a common line on Gaza.
‘ This is a very important moment... for the G7 to come together in the face of this crisis and speak as we do in one clear voice,’ he said at the start of the two-day meeting in Tokyo.
In a visit to the occupied West Bank on Sunday, he suggested the Palestinian Authority (PA) under president Mahmud Abbas should retake control of Gaza.
Mr Abbas said the PA could return to power in Gaza only if a ‘comprehensive political solution’ is found for the conflict.
Mr Blinken’s intervention was a sign of the US’s fraying patience behind the scenes with Israel, traditionally a steadfast ally, amid concern that its focus on destroying Hamas has left little room to consider how a peaceful future could be achieved. It is likely the bloodshed will only worsen in the coming days.
On Monday, the Hamas-controlled health ministry dismissed Israeli offers of safe passage out of Gaza City as ‘nothing but death corridors’. Spokesman Ashraf al-Qidra said bodies had lined the road for days. Israel’s military said that, at one point, its troops came under Hamas fire when trying to open the road temporarily for civilians. Mr Netanyahu echoed the army’s claims in an interview with ABC News.
‘We are fighting an enemy that is particularly brutal,’ he said. ‘They are using their civilians as human shields, and while we are asking the Palestinian civilian population to leave the war zone, they are preventing them at gunpoint.’
‘Chain of command is severed’