U.S. official confirms Israeli forces killed senior Hamas military leader Marwan Issa

U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan confirmed on Monday an Israeli airstrike in the Nuseirat area last week killed senior Hamas military commander Marwan Issa. The targeted strike against Issa represents one of the most significant Israeli operations against Hamas in the Gaza Strip since the start of the war.

On Mar. 11, the IDF stated that a joint operation between it and the Shin Bet targeted Issa and another Hamas commander identified as Aziz Abu Tama’a. The attack targeted an underground compound in the central Gaza Strip.

Israeli defense officials have not confirmed that Issa has been killed, and Hamas has not acknowledged his death either. However, it is doubtful that Sullivan would have commented on Issa’s death without approval from Israel. Nevertheless, it is an unusual way to announce the death of a senior Hamas member, as typically, these announcements are made by Israel or Hamas.

Despite Israeli officials not officially confirming his death, there have been strong hints from them following the airstrike that Issa was indeed killed. For example, after multiple news reports surfaced claiming that Israel had targeted Issa, Prime Minister Netanyahu released a statement indicating that a high-ranking Hamas member had been eliminated and suggested more eliminations were to follow.

Issa was deputy to Muhammed Deif, the head of Hamas’ Al-Qassam Brigades. Israel accused Issa of playing a central figure in masterminding the Oct. 7 Hamas-led terrorist attack on communities in southern Israel. Issa was deeply involved in Hamas operations for over a decade, having been part of the team that negotiated the Gilad Shalit deal. He also served as the deputy and operations officer to former Hamas commander Ahmed Jabari.

Before the 2005 disengagement, Issa planned an operation against Israeli settlements inside the Gaza Strip. Issa established special units to carry out the operation, but the plans were shelved when Israel unilaterally pulled out of the Gaza Strip.

The State Department added Issa to its list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists in 2019.

Joe Truzman is a research analyst at FDD's Long War Journal focused primarily on Palestinian militant groups and Hezbollah. Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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