Photo by Majdi Fathi/TPS on 12 March, 2024

Speculation Continues to Swirl Around Fate of Hamas Leader Possibly Killed in Airstrike

Public By Baruch Yedid/TPS • 12 March, 2024

Jerusalem, 12 March, 2024 (TPS) -- Both Hamas and the Israel Defense Forces are trying to ascertain whether the terror group’s number three man in Gaza was killed in an airstrike over the weekend.

Hamas has neither confirmed nor denied the fate of Marwan Issa, who, if dead, would be the highest-ranking figure in the terror group eliminated by Israel.

Briefing reporters on Monday, Israel Defense Forces spokesperson Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said aircraft struck an underground compound used by Hamas leaders in the central Gaza area of Nuseirat on Saturday night.

According to Hagari, the tunnel has been used by senior Hamas figures, including Hamas’s Gaza strongman Yahya Sinwar and Muhammed Deif, the overall commander of Hamas forces. They are the highest-ranking figures in the hierarchy of Hamas’s Gaza leadership. Issa, Hamas’s number three man, is Deif’s deputy.

Hagari said that Aziz Abu Tama’a, who is responsible for all of Hamas’s weaponry, was in the subterranean compound along with other terrorists.

Sources in the Gaza Strip told The Press Service of Israel that not all the bodies were taken to the various hospitals, raising the possibility that bodies are being held elsewhere or are still in the ruins of the compound.

Hamas leaders and commanders in the field reportedly lost communication with Hamas in the aftermath of the strike. He was apparently supposed to at least signal his whereabouts to the senior leadership.

To protect senior figures, Hamas dispersed its leaders to different locations in Gaza. Sinwar and his inner circle are believed to be between Deir al Balah and Rafah.

As Deif’s deputy, Issa would have been involved in planning the attack of October 7.

The 59-year-old Issa, whose friends call him “Commando,” is considered one of the most secretive and insidious senior officials in Hamas.

In his youth, Issa was a skilled basketball player before he was arrested by Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

As he climbed the ranks of Hamas, Issa participated in a series of secret meetings in Egypt on deals for the release of Hamas prisoners. Together with Saleh Arouri, Issa played a central role in the Gilad Shalit prisoner swap, making sure Hamas prisoners were released with an eye towards the future benefit they would bring the terror organization.

Issa was the individual most responsible for organizing Hamas’s terror cells into a more hierarchical army. He was also among the planners of revenge attacks after Israel assassinated Hamas bombmaker Yahya “The Engineer” Ayash in 1996.

Israel has made multiple attempts to assassinate Issa in the past.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hinted at Issa’s possible death on Monday. Appearing in a 13-second video, Netanyahu said, “We are on the way to total victory. On the way to this victory, we already eliminated number four in Hamas. Three, two and one are on the way. They are all dead men, we will reach them all.”

At least 1,200 people were killed and 240 Israelis and foreigners were taken hostage in Hamas’s attacks on Israeli communities near the Gaza border on October 7. Of the remaining 134 hostages, Israel recently declared 31 of them dead.