Hamas’ new leader in Gaza, Yahya al-Sinwar is a veteran of armed resistance and has spent many decades in Israeli dungeons. Under his leadership, the resistance front is expected to be re-activated after a period of quietude.
Yahya al-Sinwar has been elected the new leader of Hamas in Gaza. He won by a wide margin signaling dissatisfaction with the approach adopted by the outgoing leadership: one of political compromise rather than armed struggle. A veteran of the Zionist dungeons — he spent 23 years in Israeli jails for resisting the occupiers — he is expected to return the movement back to its active resistance mode that had been put on hold by the current political bureau, especially its chief Khalid Mish‘al.
While the Palestinian resistance movement has been split along ideological lines between the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the Islamic movement, the latter has had further divisions as well. The PA has acted as little more than US-Zionist stooges with its leaders striking it rich. The so-called Authority exists at their pleasure and acts as their subcontractor.
The Islamic movement represented by Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Palestine had opted for armed struggle and no political compromise with the Zionists. Unfortunately the foreign-instigated war in Syria caused a deep split in the Palestinian Islamic resistance movement. For decades prior to 2011 when the mayhem erupted in Syria, both Hamas and Islamic Jihad had maintained offices in Damascus. A number of leftist Palestinian groups also had offices there. In 2011, both Hamas and Islamic Jihad moved out of Syria to Qatar. This was a huge blunder.
While Islamic Jihad did not burn its bridges with Syria or Islamic Iran completely, Hamas went over to the comprising camp of the Arabian regimes. Some Hamas leaders were unhappy with this stance but were overruled by Khalid Mish‘al. He even met then Saudi King ‘Abdullah. True, ‘Abdullah and the Qataris gave them large sums of money but only to lead a comfortable life, not to participate in resistance against the Zionist occupiers. After all, the Arabian regimes have already surrendered to the Zionists and are seeking their protection.
This was a serious mistake by the Hamas leadership that caused a deep split in its ranks. Al-Sinwar’s election is seen as a course correction and is likely to draw Hamas back to the Resistance Camp led by Islamic Iran and Hizbullah. Al-Sinwar is ideally suited for this. He was one of the founders of Hamas’ military wing, the Izzedine Qassam Brigades. He also oversaw the establishment of Hamas’ security apparatus, Majd, that helped restore security in the Gaza Strip by putting an end to clan gangsterism.
The Zionists not only know al-Sinwar well but also fear him. He was responsible for eliminating 12 Israeli agents in Gaza for which he spent decades in Israeli dungeons. Zionist reaction to his election reveals their concerns. Acting Prime Minister Yuval Steinitz’s remarked as soon as it became apparent that al-Sinwar had been elected in Gaza that “confrontation is coming.” It also revealed that hitherto Hamas had maintained a quietist approach vis-à-vis the Zionist occupiers without getting anything in return, not even partial lifting of the tight siege of Gaza that has strangled its 1.8 million inhabitants.
Al-Sinwar believes in the complete liberation of all of Palestine and the absolute Right of Return. He also believes that only by capturing Israeli soldiers will they be able to secure the release of Palestinian prisoners illegally held in the Zionist dungeons. Those who know him speak admiringly of al-Sinwar’s sincerity, patriotism, strong adherence to his tough political stance, modesty, and frugal lifestyle. These qualities will serve Hamas well.