Hamas Mutiny in Gaza?

AP Photo/Adel Hana, File

Has Yahya Sinwar lost control of his Hamas brigades in Gaza? New reports in Israeli media suggest that the terrorist general has lost touch with his commanders in more ways than one. Leadership appears to have fractured over hostage-release discussions, as Hamas brigades face annihilation.


And Sinwar apparently can't be found, according to diplomatic sources:

Several senior Hamas figures in Gaza have urged the terror group’s exiled political leadership to accept the ceasefire and hostage deal proposal championed by US President Joe Biden, according to internal communications seen by The Associated Press.

The messages, shared by a Middle East official familiar with the ongoing negotiations, described the heavy losses Hamas has suffered on the battlefield and the dire conditions in the war-ravaged territory. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to share the contents of internal Hamas communications.

The two messages are dated from May and June, before the IDF wrapped up taking control of Rafah and the smuggling lines that kept Hamas armed for war. In the last few days, the IDF has launched new operations in Gaza City and Shejaiyah. Reportedly, Hamas tried to reconstitute its forces in a UNRWA facility it previously used for cover, and the IDF has launched a significant offensive in its game of whack-a-mole:

The Israel Defense Forces launched a new operation early Monday morning in southern neighborhoods of Gaza City, following what it said was intelligence of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad infrastructure and terror operatives in the area.

Palestinian media outlets reported that Israeli ground forces advanced into Gaza City’s Tel al-Hawa neighborhood, following a large wave of airstrikes. Tel al-Hawa is located in the south of Gaza City, close to the Netzarim Corridor, where the military maintains a semi-permanent presence. ...

In a statement on Monday morning, the military said it was also operating at UNRWA’s headquarters, located near the Rimal neighborhood, where the IDF previously found significant Hamas tunnel infrastructure and killed and captured numerous gunmen.

The IDF said it had intelligence of new Hamas and Islamic Jihad activity and infrastructure in Gaza City, including weapon caches and detention and interrogation rooms used by the terror groups.


Assuming this is accurate, it means that the Israelis are getting good and actionable intelligence on Hamas operations. The seizure of the Philadelphi Corridor and the dismantling of the extensive smuggling tunnels under it means Hamas can't resupply. If the IDF is finding and destroying its weapons caches now, they're not going to have much more capacity to maintain even a defensive posture anywhere in Gaza -- and will have nowhere to run.

The messages now coming to light from the last two months make it clear that Hamas is already reaching the end of its rope, thanks to the Rafah operation:

The communications, from May and June, suggested that the war had taken a toll on Hamas fighters, with the senior figures urging the group’s political wing abroad to accept the deal despite the reluctance of Yahya Sinwar, the group’s leader in Gaza.

The messages suggest that Sinwar, who has been in hiding since the war erupted and is believed to be holed up in a tunnel deep underground, either isn’t fully aware of the toll of the fighting or isn’t fully communicating it to those negotiating outside of the territory.

There's no honor amongst thieves, and even less among terrorists bent on genocidal annihilation. October 7 proved that in a myriad of grotesqueries that in any sane age would have galvanized the West, and generated a united front against the author of those atrocities -- Iran. 

Even so, terrorist organizations have a chain of command enforced with brutal consequences for those who defy it, more so than legit militaries with state writ for enforcement. Sinwar has made his strategy perfectly clear -- he wants a huge toll of 'civilian' casualties to leverage Western weakness against Israel, Sinwar wants the Israelis to fight over the war so as to allow Hamas to emerge while keeping control of Gaza. These commanders certainly understood that strategy on October 7 and for months afterward. 


Now, however, these same commanders are cutting around Sinwar to get a deal for some breathing room. That suggests that they are more afraid of the IDF than they are of Sinwar, and more importantly, no longer trust his leadership. That's a recent development, likely forced by the success of the IDF's long-delayed Rafah operation and their ability to cut off all lines of supply at their rear. 

The Associated Press raises the question of whether Sinwar's in any position to lead now:

Two US officials stated, according to the report, that such divisions do exist within the terror group’s leadership and were a factor in Hamas’s announcement last week. 

AP also noted that the content of the messages indicated that Sinwar either was not communicative with Hamas’s leaders in Qatar or was not fully cognizant of the breadth of the fighting in Gaza. 

Has Sinwar dropped off the radar, even for Hamas leadership in Qatar? That may well explain why the Doha billionaires dropped the demand for a permanent cease-fire to start any hostage swaps. If Sinwar is out of contact, or dead, then they will be next on the Mossad hit list, and they know it. 

Addendum: It looks like the Rafah operation was far more extensive than the IDF let on:

Rafah is “unrecognizable,” a “ghost town,” and a “wasteland,” according to recent reports from international media. The Israel Defense Force took foreign journalists to the Philadelphi route along the Egyptian border and also into areas of Rafah for the first time since the operation began in May. The IDF had done a similar trip for Israeli journalists in mid-June.

The joining of journalists from Fox News, CNN, the Associated Press (AP), NBC, CBS, and other networks in this journey is important because it provides a glimpse into the first reactions among correspondents to Israel’s operations in this area of southern Gaza. ...

For instance, CNN’s account by Jeremy Diamond noted, “Israel has repeatedly described its ground operation in Rafah as ‘limited.’ But in this neighborhood in southern Rafah, the destruction looks almost identical to what I’ve seen in northern Gaza, in central Gaza, and in Khan Yunis through the limited prism of trips into Gaza with the Israeli military.” While the IDF told CNN that they have found tunnels in Rafah, including tunnels that run in the direction of the Egyptian border, so far more details on whether these were used for smuggling remain unclear.


When you start a war, you'd better be prepared to lose it. If the Gazans wanted to end this, they could have revolted against Sinwar months ago, capitulated to the IDF, and returned all the hostages. Instead, this is a FAFO consequence of starting a war and then hiding among civilians while fighting it. The only way to disincentivize that impulse in the future is to deliver the full pricing signal for that choice in the present.  

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