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

The Parallels Between Yahya Sinwar and Yasser Arafat

Filed under: Operation Swords of Iron, Palestinians

The Parallels Between Yahya Sinwar and Yasser Arafat
Yahya Sinwar signaling victory at a 2021 rally. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Shutterstock)

Two leading figures, Yahya Sinwar and Yasser Arafat, played significant roles in attempting to challenge Israel through acts of terrorism. Despite their efforts, they ultimately failed, leading to significant repercussions for the Palestinian people.

Israel’s ability to withstand Palestinian terrorism can be attributed to its national unity and unwavering determination to combat such threats, a point that should not be overlooked.

In discussions with a senior official in the Fatah movement, parallels between Yahya Sinwar, leader of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, and PLO chairman Yasser Arafat were drawn.

Notably, both harbored a fervent desire, driven by distinct motivations, to liberate Jerusalem and the Al-Aqsa Mosque. They aimed to emulate the esteemed Muslim commander Salah al-Din Al-Ayoubi, renowned for freeing Jerusalem from Crusader control in the 12th century AD.

Yasser Arafat
Yasser Arafat (Akbar el Yom)

Both Arafat and Sinwar held profound reverence for the Al-Aqsa Mosque and Jerusalem, willing to sacrifice their lives to secure them and be commemorated in the annals of Muslim history as liberators from Israeli control.

 While Arafat has since died, under circumstances clouded in mystery and speculation of potential foul play, Sinwar’s fate remains uncertain, with his demise seemingly inevitable.

The Tunnels and the Mukata’a

If Sinwar meets his end in the tunnels of Gaza, it will mirror Arafat’s protracted confinement in the Mukata’a headquarters in Ramallah, which eventually culminated in his death. Investigations into Arafat’s demise suggested poisoning, with some attributing it to Palestinian factions with ties to Israel.

During the hunt for Sinwar in Gaza’s tunnels, the IDF uncovered documents implicating him in the October 7, 2023, massacres in communities surrounding Gaza and various terrorist attacks against Israel.

Similarly, investigations at the Mukata’a in Ramallah in 2002 yielded evidence linking Arafat to terrorist activities against Israel.

Sinwar’s attempted terrorist onslaught, known as the “Al-Aqsa Flood,” in October 2023 aimed to coerce Israel into accepting an independent Palestinian state along the 1967 borders. This mirrors Arafat’s aspirations during the Second Intifada, which ultimately failed, leading to Israel’s re-occupation of Gaza and the West Bank.

Both Sinwar and Arafat’s campaigns of terror not only failed in their objectives but also hindered prospects for a political resolution and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.

The Second Intifada is remembered as a tragic failure in Palestinian history, prompting PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas to renounce armed resistance in favor of peaceful means.

Similarly, Sinwar’s “Al-Aqsa Flood” operation is poised to become another bleak chapter in Palestinian history, exacerbating the plight of Gazans and evoking comparisons to the “Nakba” of 1948.

Sinwar and Arafat’s militant endeavors dragged Israel into bloody conflicts, exacting a heavy toll on lives lost on both sides.

However, Israel’s resilience, bolstered by national unity and a steadfast commitment to combat terrorism, ensured its victory in these struggles—a testament that must not be forgotten.

In conclusion, despite the absence of a foreseeable solution, both sides are bracing for future confrontations, underscoring the enduring complexities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.