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A "Friend" from Hamas.


The radical Hamas leader who will fight to the death, by Israeli spy chief who knew him


Few Israelis understand Yahya Sinwar better than Michael Koubi, who spent 150 hours interrogating him more than 30 years ago

George Grylls, Tel Aviv

Friday February 16 2024, 6.00am, The Times




The young Sunni radical’s attitude to his interrogator was one of disdain. But it was ­Yahya Sinwar’s stare that disconcerted his Israeli captors the most.

“He had these murderous eyes,” said Michael Koubi, 78, former director of interrogations for Shin Bet, the Israeli domestic security agency. “He said he would rather be a shahid [martyr] than talk.”

Sinwar, 61, is regarded as the mastermind of the October 7 terrorist attacks and is Israel’s most wanted man. Israeli soldiers have scattered leaflets across Gaza offering a bounty of $400,000 for information that could lead to his capture.

The determination to find Hamas’s leader in Gaza was evident this week when the Israel Defence Forces released CCTV footage of a shadowy figure walking through a tunnel with what appeared to be his wife and children.

Israel claims the man’s distinctive ears identify him as Sinwar. “We are determined to capture him — and we will capture him,” said Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, the IDF spokesman.

But so far Sinwar, the man responsible for the deaths of more than 1,200 Israelis in last year’s massacre, has evaded capture.


For Koubi, there can be no victory until Israel finds him. “The people involved in the massacre must be killed,” he said. “Sinwar will never leave Gaza. He will fight until he is martyred. He has principles. He will never surrender and he will never escape to Egypt.”


It is a bitter irony for Israel that Sinwar owes his life to Israeli doctors who removed a brain tumour during his 22 years of imprisonment.

Nicknamed the “Butcher of Khan Yunis” by his fellow Palestinians, Sinwar was jailed for murder in 1989. He was released along with 1,025 other prisoners in 2011 as part of a deal to free Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier held hostage in Gaza by Hamas. The deal was agreed by an earlier government of Binyamin Netanyahu.


Upon his return to Gaza, Sinwar became the head of Hamas in 2017, surviving Israeli assassination attempts. Under his leadership, Hamas persuaded Netanyahu that the fundamentalist group no longer posed a threat to Israel, even convincing the Israeli prime minister to facilitate the delivery of millions of dollars a month in Qatari funding to Gaza.


Few Israelis understand Sinwar better than Koubi, who spent 150 hours extracting information from him when he was Shin Bet’s chief interrogator from 1987 to 1993.

“He’s really smart,” Koubi said. “I don’t think he’s a psychopath. He’s very rational, and he never showed any emotion. He never smiled. He was a radical fanatic and he was very proud to kill.”


Conducting interviews in Arabic, Koubi claims that Shin Bet — the Israeli equivalent of MI5 or the FBI — never used physical force to extract confessions and instead relied on psychological probing to get under Sinwar’s skin.


Koubi knew he had to be able to go toe-to-toe with his interviewee, a religious man who knew the Quran by heart. “I needed to show him that I knew the Quran better than him,” Koubi said.

But as Koubi struggled to break the jihadist, he realised his best chance lay in recruiting his mentor, Sheikh Ahmed Yasin, the quadriplegic imam who took Sinwar under his wing as a boy.

Yasin founded Mujama al-Islamiya, a charity which began amassing arms and morphed through the 1980s into the militant organisation known today as Hamas.

Koubi says he ordered the preacher, who was also in an Israeli prison, to issue a fatwa that compelled his disciple Sinwar to answer the interrogator’s questions truthfully.

As a result, Sinwar began coolly confessing to a series of murders.


Entrusted by Yasin with running the Al-Majd Unit, Sinwar was responsible for enforcing the group’s morals, punishing those suspected of sins such as homosexuality or fornication with extreme violence and murdering Palestinians accused of collaborating with Israel.

In a recently released transcript from the Shin Bet interrogations, during which he confessed to four murders, Sinwar described how he instructed one blindfolded man to get into his own grave before strangling the victim with his bare hands.

According to Koubi, Sinwar took his inspiration from Saladin, the 12th-century Muslim warrior who won back Jerusalem from the Crusaders. “He believed in a jihad against Israel,” Koubi said.

Although he was charged with only four killings, Koubi says Sinwar confessed to 12 murders in total.


While in prison, Koubi says Sinwar slit the throats of three other inmates with smuggled razor blades to send a message to those he judged to have betrayed the cause. Such violence meant Sinwar was kept in solitary confinement for many years. But during this time, he was granted books on Israeli politics, which he used to learn Hebrew and study the country’s prime ministers.

Koubi said Shin Bet was opposed to this “VIP treatment”. “He knew how to convince people to work with him. Unfortunately the authorities of the prison co-operated with him. They wanted the prison to remain calm.”


Koubi retired in 2007. He said he was appalled when Sinwar, a man whose intelligence and inspirational qualities he recognises but says he does not respect, was released as part of the Gilad Shalit deal.


Other men on Israel’s most wanted list, including Mohammed Deif, head of the Al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’ military wing, are also well known to Koubi. He first arrested Deif when the Hamas commander was 17 but dismisses him as slow-witted compared with Sinwar.

Without Sinwar, Koubi said, Hamas would never have been able to carry out the October 7 attacks.

He credits him with developing the group’s relations with Iran and Hezbollah, expanding the tunnel network under Gaza, and creating the Nukhba, the elite commando force that overran Israeli border forces on October 7, having used dummy villages to practise their assault.


Thought to be hiding somewhere in his hometown of Khan Yunis or in nearby Rafah, surrounded by human shields, Sinwar is too dangerous for Israeli troops to apprehend, according to Koubi.

In the past, Israel has put its enemies on trial — most famously Adolf Eichmann, the Nazi who oversaw the Holocaust.

“It’s better not to capture Sinwar. It’s better to kill him immediately,” Koubi said. “We don’t need another Eichmann in Israel.”

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Sacked for 'Islamophobia' for calling out the UN and Hamas.  Unbelievable!




"Lord Austin suspended from housing role for criticising UN over Gaza tunnel

Michael Gove has voiced concern at the treatment of a peer who quit the Labour Party over its views on antisemitism.


A peer who left the Labour Party over antisemitism has been suspended as chairman of a housing organisation after criticising the UN over Hamas terror activities in Gaza.


Lord Austin of Dudley has also been told he faces removal from the board of the Birmingham-based social landlord Midland Heart.


The controversy comes after Austin shared a post on Twitter/X about the UN Relief Works Agency (UNRWA), the branch of the UN that administers aid in Gaza. Last week, the Israel Defence Forces said they had discovered a tunnel shaft near a school by the agency which led to an “underground terrorist tunnel beneath UNRWA’s main headquarters”."


If you look into who complained about him, it shows us the direction of travel and who we can't criticise.


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