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Why some in Israel are wary of Hamas’ new Gaza boss

Israeli security experts disagree whether the new Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip, Yahya Sinwar, will escalate tensions with Israel or adopt a pragmatic approach.
Freed Palestinian Hamas leader Yehia Sinwar (C) greets supporters following his release from an Israeli jail at a welcome tent near his home in Khan Yunis, southern Gaza Strip, on October 19, 2011. The Palestinian Hamas movement exchanged Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier who spent more than five years of isolation in a Gaza hide-out, for hundreds of Palestinian militants being held in Israeli jails. AFP PHOTO/SAID KHATIB (Photo credit should read SAID KHATIB/AFP/Getty Images)

It seems there has never been a leader of Hamas better known to Israel than Yahya Sinwar, who was chosen this week in an internal process to succeed Ismail Haniyeh as the head of the political wing of the organization in the Gaza Strip. And vice versa: Sinwar spent 22 years in an Israeli prison and was released in the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange deal in the fall of 2011. He speaks Hebrew, is familiar with the ways of Israeli society and knows everything about the Israeli mentality, abilities and sensitivities.

Since Sinwar was chosen, an interview he gave in 2006 to journalist Yoram Binor, in fluent Hebrew, has circulated online: In the interview he said, among other things, “We understand that Israel is sitting on 200 nuclear missiles. … We don’t have the ability to disarm Israel.” 

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