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Israeli military says it's surrounded the home of architect of the Oct. 7 Hamas attack

IDF says it's closing in on Hamas leader
Israel says its military has surrounded Hamas leader's home 05:18

The Israeli military said its troops were in the heart of the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis on Thursday, which it claims is the headquarters of Hamas and home to Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar, the alleged mastermind of the Oct. 7 attack. Killing Sinwar is one of the stated goals of Israel's offensive in southern Gaza.

"I'm not sure what to think about Sinwar, whether he will be fighting to his death or whether he sneaked out," former commander of elite special forces, Doron Avital, told CBS News. His job used to be to hunt down militants like the Hamas leader.

"There's no telling how a commander of such an organization will behave," Avital said.

But at a 2021 press conference for international journalists, Sinwar may have offered a clue.

"The best gift the occupation leaders can give me is assassinating me, because since childhood, I was raised in a way that taught me to sacrifice my life for this country," Sinwar said.

The press conference was held in Gaza shortly after 11 days of violence in Israel and Gaza left at least 248 Palestinians dead, according to the Anti-Defamation League. 13 people in Israel were killed by Hamas or other militant groups' rockets, according to the ADL.

"This is the final occupation in the world, and it must end," Sinwar said in 2021. "If it does not end through peaceful resistance or international diplomacy, it will end through the resistance. People who have resisted occupation throughout the world have paid a high price. We want this conflict to end in a passive way without a high cost, but if we must pay the price, we will never hesitate to pay the price."

The Israel Defense Forces have been unrelenting in their bombardment of southern Gaza, where many civilians fled when the war began. Hamas health officials have updated the overall death toll in Gaza to more than 17,000. Israel says 87 of its soldiers have been killed; 1,200 people were murdered in Hamas' attack on Israel on Oct. 7.

Inside a hospital in Khan Younis, terrified 11-year-old Saba Magnam desperately searched for her father and siblings.

"We were at the school. They hit us twice. It landed on us and on my father," she cried out.

Finally, she found her loved ones alive, but many were not so lucky.

Israel struck the southern town of Rafah twice overnight, one of the last places residents have gone to seek safety after Israel widened its offensive.

"We live in fear every moment, for our children, ourselves, our families," Dalia Abu Samhadaneh, who fled Khan Younis and is now living in Rafah with her family, told The Associated Press. "We live with the anxiety of expulsion."

The United Nations says there's now "no safe place in Gaza," and on Wednesday, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres used a rare mechanism to warn the Security Council of an impending "humanitarian catastrophe" there, calling for a humanitarian ceasefire.

"Amid constant bombardment by the Israel Defense Forces, and without shelter or the essentials to survive, I expect public order to completely break down soon due to the desperate conditions, rendering even limited humanitarian assistance impossible," Guterres said in a letter. "An even worse situation could unfold, including epidemic diseases and increased pressure for mass displacement into neighboring countries," he said. 

Amid its offensive, Israel ordered the evacuation of around 24 neighborhoods in southern Gaza, rather than the whole region, as it did in the north, The Associated Press reported. This, Israel said, shows its increased concern for the civilian population there, according to the AP.

The U.N. says over 80% of the population of Gaza - about 1.87 of the 2.3 million people who live there - have been forced to flee their homes, some multiple times. Normally, around 280,000 people live in Rafah, on Gaza's southern border with Egypt. Now, more than 470,000 people are residing there, the AP reported.

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