Hamas no:3 dead! Marwan Issa aka 'shadow man' killed in Israeli operation

White House official Jake Sullivan confirmed the death of Hamas leader Marwan Issa

Issa Marwan Issa, the deputy head of Hamas’s military wing, circled in an unverified photo circulated on social media in 2015 | Times of Israel

Capping days of speculations, the White House on Monday confirmed that Hamas leader Marwan Issa was killed in an Israeli operation. The confirmation comes a day after IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi said that Hamas was trying to hide Issa’s fate.

Issa was known as the Hamas no: 3 and the highest-ranking militant commander to be killed in more than five months of war. According to the White House, Issa, the deputy commander of Hamas’s military wing, was killed earlier this month in central Gaza. 

Israel considers Ismail Haniyeh as Hamas’s top official, with Gaza chief Yahya Sinwar as #1, and Hamas's military wing chief Mohammed Deif as 2. Issa was no 3.

"Hamas’s number three, Marwan Issa, was killed in an Israeli operation last week," national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters Monday. "The rest of the top leaders are in hiding, likely deep in the Hamas tunnel network," "And justice will come for them, too." 

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant also hinted Sunday that the targeting of Issa was successful. "Thanks to the ground operation, we reached information that led to [eliminations] and successes. This is true for northern Gaza, the central camps in Nuseirat, and Rafah," Gallant told reporters.

The IDF was initially reluctant to confirm Issa's death until Halevi claimed that "the March 9 operation was a significant intelligence coup because it led to a precise hit on the high-ranking Hamas military leader in an underground tunnel."

Last week, Palestinian sources had indicated that Issa did not survive the Israeli strike and his body was still buried under rubble. 

Who was Issa?

Marwan Issa was the deputy of Hamas military chief Mohammed Deif and was believed by Israel to have played a central role in Hamas’s day-to-day military operations and to have helped plan its attack on October 7. 

Issa was known as Shadow Man for his low public profile and ability to evade Israeli arrest and assassination attempts over the decades. He had managed to evade IDF attempts on his life in 2006, 2014 and 2021. He was also one of the longest-serving senior leaders in Hamas and rarely appeared in public. 

Issa was born in central Gaza in 1965, but his family is from what is now the Ashqelon area in Israel. He had two sons, both deceased. Baraa, his eldest, died in 2009 after Egypt refused to allow him entry from the Gaza Strip for medical treatment. His other son, Muhammad, was killed in 2023 in an Israeli strike in Gaza.

He became the deputy commander of Hamas' military wing, the Al Qassam Brigades, and the right-hand man to Mohammed Deif. Issa assumed the role after the assassination of another senior commander, Ahmed Al Jabari. He had also served both on Hamas’s military council and in its Gaza political office, overseen by Yahya Sinwar, the group’s highest-ranking official in the enclave.

Issa, however, was in Israel jail during the First Palestinian Intifada in the late 1980s. He was detained by the Palestinian Authority in 1997 until the start of the Second Intifada in 2000, reported UAE-based National News.

Issa claimed in a 2021 interview that he was involved in indirect talks that resulted in Israel exchanging more than 1,000 Palestinian detainees for a single Israeli soldier, Sgt Gilad Shalit. "Even if the resistance in Palestine is monitored by the enemy at all hours, it will surprise the enemy," he told Al Jazeera at the time. 


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