The leader of the Islamist Hamas organization, Yahya Al-Sinwar, has tested positive for COVID-19.
According to the terror group’s spokesman Hazem Qassem, the 58-year-old Sinwar is “following the advice of health authorities and taking precautionary measures.”
“He is in good health and he is pursuing his duties as usual,” Qassem said, declining to reveal whether the Hamas Political Bureau chief of Gaza is in quarantine.
Sinwar has long been branded a terrorist by Israel.
He was one of the founders of the Islamist group’s secret military wing, the Munazzamat al Jihad w’al-Dawa (Majd). During the First Intifada, Majd was charged with capturing and murdering suspected Palestinian collaborators with Israel; imprisoned in 1982 and again in 1985.
He was eventually sentenced to multiple life terms behind bars in 1989, but served just 22 years. Sinwar was the most senior Palestinian terrorist freed among 1,026 others in a 2011 prisoner exchange for IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, who had been held hostage by Hamas for five years.
Sinwar was named the Hamas leader in Gaza by members in a secretive selection process in 2017. He holds close ties with Iran.
The coronavirus has surged in Gaza over recent months. There are 10,000 active cases, 132 of whom are in critical condition. Overall, there have been 111 reported deaths from COVID-19, and nearly 21,000 infections- most of which have been diagnosed since August – amid rising concerns of a wider outbreak in the densely populated enclave of 2 million residents.
Despite ongoing terrorism from Gaza, Israel has done its utmost to help the Palestinian enclave battle the disease. The IDF Coordinator for Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), Major General Kamil Abu Rukun, released a statement last week underscoring Israeli efforts to to assist the medical system in the Strip.