The six top Hamas leaders in Israel’s sights
Hamas senior political leader Ismail Haniyeh, who lives in Qatar, speaks to the press upon his arrival at the Rafah border crossing from Egypt in the southern Gaza Strip, Sept. 19, 2017. (Photo: Abed Rahim Khatib/ Flash90)

By Baruch Yedid
January 5, 2024

(JNS) — While the assassination of Hamas deputy leader Saleh al-Arouri in an airstrike in Beirut on Tuesday was the highest-profile attack on the terror group, it is by no means the last.

Israeli leaders have vowed to track down and kill Hamas leaders wherever they are.

Israel has not confirmed that it was responsible for the strike, which killed al-Arouri along with several senior operatives at Hamas’s Beirut headquarters. But Mossad chief David Barnea hinted that Israel was behind the assassination, as is widely believed in Israel and across the Middle East.

“Let every Arab mother know that if her son took part in the massacre [of Oct. 7], he signed his own death warrant,” Barnea said on Wednesday at the funeral of former Mossad director Zvi Zamir, who died this week at the age of 98.

Zamir, who ran the intelligence agency in the 1970s, oversaw “Operation Wrath of God,” which tracked down and killed a number of Palestinian terrorists linked to the massacre of 11 Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics of 1972.

Al-Arouri was in Israel’s crosshairs, and now other Hamas leaders are feeling the heat.

Here are the six Hamas figures that would be at the top of an Israeli hit list.

Yahya Sinwar is Hamas’s leader in the Gaza Strip and the overall mastermind of the Oct. 7 massacre of 1,200 residents of Israeli communities near the Gaza Strip.

Sinwar, 61, has been Gaza’s strongman since 2017. In his youth, Sinwar founded Hamas’s Majed squads which hunted and killed Palestinians suspected of collaborating with Israel. Sinwar personally killed 12.

While serving four life sentences for killing four Palestinian collaborators, Israeli doctors diagnosed and removed a cancerous tumor in his head. In 2011, Sinwar was among the 1,027 security prisoners freed in the Gilad Shalit prisoner swap. Acquaintances describe Sinwar as obsessed with Israel.

An Egyptian official told JNS that Sinwar’s elimination would pave the way for the end of the war.

Ismail Haniyeh, as head of Hamas’s politburo, is nominally the terror group’s supreme leader.

In his youth, Haniyeh worked as a plasterer in Israel and later became the personal assistant of Hamas founder and spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin. He was also active in student councils. Haniyeh and dozens of other Hamas figures were deported to Lebanon in 1992, but they all returned to Israel a year and a half later.

The 60-year-old Haniyeh is a billionaire, and his family owns dozens of real estate properties in the Gaza Strip. Under Haniyeh’s leadership, Hamas became deeply aligned with Iran. He often moves between Qatar and Turkey.

Muhammed Deif heads Hamas’s military forces. His real family name is Masri, but he is known as Deif, which is Arabic for “guest”—a reference to his life on the run.

During the 1990s and early 2000s, Deif masterminded numerous suicide bombing attacks, then moved on to oversee Hamas’s rocket attacks and tunnel warfare. He helped plan and gave final approval to the Oct. 7 attacks.

Deif, 61, was at the top of Israel’s most-wanted list and has survived seven Israeli assassination attempts. Even by Hamas standards, Deif operates secretly, delivering messages through a spokesperson.

Zahar Jabarin, one of the longest-serving members of Hamas, was Saleh Arouri’s deputy and is the terror group’s key financier.

Jabarin started off helping establish Hamas’s first terror cells in Judea and Samaria. He also recruited many of Hamas’s now senior figures. Jabarin’s best-known recruit was Yahya Ayyash, Hamas’s bombmaker who was responsible for the death of at least 90 Israelis and was eventually assassinated by Israel in 1996.

Based in Lebanon, Jabarin oversees Hamas’s economic empire and financed the Oct. 7 attacks. Jabarin also serves in a senior position in the administration responsible for building up Hamas’s terror capabilities in Lebanon. He maintains offices in Lebanon, Turkey, and possibly also in Qatar.

Marwan Issa, whose friends call him “commando,” is Mohammed Deif’s deputy and Hamas’s number two military figure. He is considered one of the most secretive senior officials in Hamas.

In his youth, Issa was a skilled basketball player before he was arrested by Israel and the Palestinian Authority. As he climbed the ranks of Hamas, Issa participated in a series of secret meetings in Egypt on deals for the release of Hamas prisoners. Together with Salah Arouri, Issa played a central role in the Gilad Shalit deal, making sure Hamas prisoners were released with an eye towards the future benefit they would bring the terror organization.

Mohammed Sinwar, younger brother of Yahya Sinwar and commander of Hamas’s Khan Yunis brigade, is considered one of the key planners of the Oct. 7 attacks.

A member of Hamas’s military council, Sinwar was responsible for the construction of the largest tunnel Israeli forces found in Gaza, which approached the Erez border crossing.

The younger Sinwar has survived six assassination attempts.

Leave a Reply