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Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Strategic Alliances for a Secure, Connected, and Prosperous Region

Hamas Leader Sinwar’s “Holy War” Strategy for Ramadan

Filed under: Hamas, Operation Swords of Iron, Palestinians, Radical Islam

Hamas Leader Sinwar’s “Holy War” Strategy for Ramadan
Hamas’ Gaza Strip leader Yahya Sinwar in a tunnel in southern Gaza’s Khan Younis, October 10, 2023 (IDF Spokesman)

The indirect negotiations between Israel and Hamas have reached an impasse, with Israeli security officials suspecting that Yahya Sinwar is deliberately stalling the talks to incite conflict during the month of Ramadan.

Israel should consider taking decisive action before or during this period to address the situation in Gaza, as Sinwar seems to respond only to displays of strength.

Meanwhile, negotiations for the release of Israeli hostages have also stalled.

Despite ongoing efforts by Egyptian mediators, little progress has been made. However, even if a deal is not reached before Ramadan, it is crucial to maintain diplomatic efforts.

In Israel, it is believed that Sinwar is unwilling to reach a deal, calculating that he can gain more by delaying.

He is keenly aware of international pressure on Israel to ease tensions and increase humanitarian aid to Gaza. President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris lead the pressure.

Sinwar’s strategy appears to involve exploiting Ramadan’s religious significance to escalate tensions, particularly around the Temple Mount.

His rhetoric, echoing sentiments of jihad and martyrdom, indicates a readiness for confrontation. Contrary to initial assumptions, Sinwar views Ramadan not as a time for ceasefire but as an opportunity for jihad and martyrdom.

He draws parallels between himself and historical Muslim leaders, framing his actions within a narrative of resistance against perceived oppressors.

In Hamas ideology, Ramadan symbolizes a time of historic Muslim victories over non-Muslim adversaries, adding significance to acts of resistance against Israel. Indeed, in the minds of many Muslims, the 1973 “Yom Kippur War” was the “Ramadan War.”

Despite efforts to mediate the hostage negotiations, talks in Cairo have hit a deadlock. Hamas is reluctant to provide Israel with a list of hostages or discuss the release of security prisoners without guarantees.

Sinwar’s reluctance to cooperate suggests a desire to leverage the hostages as bargaining chips in future negotiations. His demands for Israeli concessions, such as a complete withdrawal of IDF forces from Gaza, are indicative of his intentions to shape the terms of any agreement.

The negotiation stalemate increases the risk of security escalations in east Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria.

Sinwar may view the presence of IDF forces in Gaza during Ramadan as an opportunity to provoke confrontations.

Israel must remain vigilant and consider decisive action to prevent further escalation. This may involve tightening security measures in Gaza and reassessing its approach to negotiations with Hamas.

Sinwar’s actions during Ramadan underscore the complex dynamics at play in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israel must navigate these challenges with caution, recognizing the potential for escalation while remaining steadfast in its commitment to security and stability in the region.