Middle East

Hamas leader “on the run” as Israeli troops advance on Rafah, defense minister claims

From CNN's Mitchell McCluskey

Hamas’ leadership, including its top official in Gaza, is “on the run” as Israel’s military pushes further south in the Palestinian enclave, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant claimed on Monday.

The Israeli military operation in the southern city of Khan Younis will “soon achieve its goals” as troops advance southward on Rafah — Hamas’ last remaining stronghold, Gallant said in a televised briefing. “Our forces operate on the ground in most of the territory of the Gaza Strip,” he said.

Israel has publicly accused Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar of being the “mastermind” behind the group’s October 7 attack — though experts say he is likely one of several — making him one of the key targets of its war in Gaza.

Gallant claimed Monday that Sinwar had no contact with his fighters and was forced to flee from one hideout to another with the Israeli military in close pursuit. “He is not leading the forces; he is busy with his own personal survival. He became, instead of the head of Hamas, a fugitive terrorist,” Gallant said.

Gallant also claimed that Israeli forces had killed or seriously wounded about half of Hamas’ fighters in Gaza.

Hamas denial: Husam Badran, a Qatar-based spokesperson for Hamas, denied Gallant’s claims, saying they were an attempt to raise Israeli morale. Hamas fighters were “still operating in all areas” of Gaza, according to a statement from Badran published by Hamas media outlet Al Aqsa late Monday.

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