Was Marwan Issa, Israel’s “nightmare”, killed?

Marwan Issa, the elusive leader of Hamas, who the United States said was killed by Israel, had survived previous assassination attempts and spent years planning incursions into Israel, including the October 7 attack that sparked the ongoing war in Gaza.

A Hamas source told Reuters: “Brother Issa is a nightmare walking on the ground for the enemy,” praising his paramilitary skills.

US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan says that Issa was killed in an Israeli operation last week. Neither Israel nor Hamas confirmed this.

Issa, whom the Palestinians call the “Shadow Man” for his ability to hide from the eyes of the enemy, rose to third rank within the movement. He and two other Hamas leaders formed a secret military council of 3 members at the head of the movement. They planned the October 7 attack, and are believed to have been directing military operations from tunnels and backstreets in Gaza ever since.

According to Israeli statistics, the attack killed about 1,200 people and took approximately 253 hostages. It is the bloodiest attack in the history of Israel since its establishment 75 years ago.

After that, the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to kill the three: Yahya Sinwar, the leader of Hamas in Gaza, Muhammad al-Deif, the commander of the military wing, and Issa, his deputy.

The killing of Issa will be a strong blow to Hamas, which is facing a relentless Israeli air and ground campaign. To eliminate it and crush its stronghold in the Gaza Strip, where health authorities say the Israeli campaign has killed about 32,000 so far.

His killing may also complicate efforts to reach a ceasefire and release the hostages, but Israel says talks are continuing through Egyptian and Qatari mediators.

In response to a question about what was reported about his killing, the source said that this news may be an Israeli psychological war. He added that Issa “helped build Hamas’ military capabilities, including missiles.”

According to sources in the movement, Issa learned survival skills from Muhammad Al-Deif, who survived 7 assassination attempts orchestrated by Israel, which left him with deformities and forced him to use a wheelchair.

Destruction of the house… and killing of the son

Issa, who was born in 1965, was on Israel’s most wanted list, and was wounded in an assassination attempt in 2006 during a meeting with the guest.

Israeli warplanes destroyed his house twice during the Gaza invasions in 2014 and 2021, killing his brother.

Issa’s son, a known Hamas supporter, was killed in an Israeli air strike in the central Gaza Strip in December.

The United States designated Issa as a “Specially Designated Global Terrorist” in September 2019.

Like Muhammad Al-Deif, his features were not known to the public until 2011 when he appeared in a group photo taken during an exchange of prisoners and detainees with Israel, which he had helped organize.

Palestinian sources speculated that the three senior Hamas leaders were hiding in long, interwoven tunnels under the Strip, but they could be anywhere in Gaza, which is one of the most densely populated areas in the world.

Issa, perhaps the least known of the three, participated in many of the major decisions taken by Hamas in the past few years. All three were born into refugee families who fled or were expelled in 1948 from areas that later became part of Israel.

All of them spent years in Israeli occupation prisons, as Issa spent 5 years beginning in 1987.

Al-Sinwar spent 22 years in prison beginning in 1988 for the crime of kidnapping and killing two Israeli soldiers, in addition to killing 4 Palestinians collaborating with Israel.

He was the most prominent figure among the 1,027 Palestinians that Israel released in 2011 in exchange for the release of one of its soldiers, Gilad Shalit, who was captured by Hamas in a cross-border raid 5 years earlier.

Issa was one of the Hamas leaders who negotiated that deal.

The Palestinian Authority, Hamas’ internal rival, arrested Issa and a number of other militants in connection with the movement’s suicide attacks inside Israel in 1997.

Israel has killed more than one Hamas leader in the past, including the movement’s founder, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, and its former leader, Abdel Aziz Rantisi, who was assassinated in an air strike in 2004. New leaders were promoted to fill their places.

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