July 25, 2021

From Gaza, Yahya Sinouar poses as Palestinian leader

Yahya Sinouar will not be a simple administrator of poverty in Gaza. The Hamas leader in the enclave does not shy away from the suffering of the 2 million souls. But in its balance, the symbols weigh heavier: Al-Aqsa, the Palestinian cause. Out in broad daylight from the ruins of the last war, which ended with a ceasefire on May 21, Mr. Sinouar proclaims himself the winner, champion of the Palestinian nation.

“There is no doubt, our people saw that this cycle ended in a clear victory for the Palestinians”, he replies when asked, Wednesday, May 26, about these Gazans who alone will have to reorder their lives, after a fourth episode of destruction since 2008. The 254 dead in Gaza, according to local authorities, including 80 combatants, concern him primarily. But reconstruction is not his business. This thankless task falls to international donors, through the Palestinian Authority of President Mahmoud Abbas.

Hamas normalization

Mr. Sinouar, a poor man in public speaking since taking over as head of Hamas in Gaza in 2017, “Phobic” cameras in his words, speaks for the first time since May 2018 to the foreign press. During the war, he heard crowds of worshipers saluting his movement on the Mosques Esplanade in Jerusalem and chanting his name.

Read the portrait of Yahya Sinouar in 2017: The new leader who is shaking up Hamas

He is aware that Hamas has normalized itself as a result of the conflict, among Palestinian citizens of Israel as well as in the occupied West Bank. As his double, the military leader Mohammed Deif, goes into the shadows, Mr. Sinouar seeks to capture the surprising moment of national unity that the Palestinians have experienced since April, from demonstrations in Jerusalem to riots in Israel and the West Bank.

Since Saturday May 22, he has been showing all over Gaza. He mocks Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz, who said he remained a target despite the ceasefire. “I have already lived much longer than I should have, he observes. If the IDF makes a decision, it’s up to it. “

Mr. Sinouar assures him: he did not want this war. In his speech, everything goes and everything comes back to Al-Aqsa. Islam’s third holiest site, where Israeli police carried out a massive crackdown on May 8, the holiest night of Ramadan. Against all evidence, Mr. Sinouar believes he has pursued a dialogue through graduated violence, engaged with Israel since 2018. “We sent a message”, he said, firing a volley of rockets on May 10 at Jerusalem.

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