Israeli authorities have come to a sobering realization amid the recent devastating assault by Hamas: a dangerous sense of complacency had taken root. The acknowledgment exposes a lapse in surveillance along the Gaza border fence, with a focus on electronic sensors rather than human intelligence.
Yahya Sinwar, the leader of Hamas in Gaza, strategically played on this complacency. His call for a “‘calculated risk’ on a ceasefire” years ago was part of a broader effort to create the illusion that Hamas was shifting its focus from violence to governance. Sinwar’s vision for Gaza as a prosperous entity akin to Singapore or Dubai was propagated to mislead Israeli perceptions.
As the military reduced surveillance, Sinwar’s influence grew. Israeli analyst Chen Artzi Sror highlighted the diversion of attention towards Iran and Syria, leaving Palestinian issues on the periphery. Sinwar successfully implanted the idea that Hamas was concentrating on stability and civil affairs in Gaza, diverting attention from its true intentions.
The recent assault, attributed to Sinwar’s meticulous planning, has brought him to the forefront as the primary target for assassination. Born in poverty, Sinwar co-founded Hamas’s military wing in the late 1980s, displaying a history of ruthlessness against collaborators. His time in an Israeli prison provided an opportunity for deep understanding of Hebrew and Israeli society, making him a formidable adversary.
Despite an attempt to recruit him as an agent after a life-saving surgery in Israeli hands, Sinwar remained dedicated to his mission. Released in a 2011 exchange for Palestinian prisoners, he swiftly resumed his role within Hamas, ultimately becoming its leader for all of Gaza by 2017.
Sinwar’s sophisticated misinformation campaign misled Israel into believing that war was not on Hamas’s agenda. Collaborating with the Palestinian Authority, he negotiated work permits for Gazans, using some as unwitting informants for the October 7 attacks.
The aftermath of the assault reveals Sinwar’s silence, leaving Israel grappling with the consequences of underestimating the true nature of Hamas’s intentions. The unfolding events underscore the importance of discernment in navigating the complex dynamics of intimate enemies, leaving Israel to reassess its approach to the multifaceted challenges posed by Hamas and its elusive leader, Yahya Sinwar.