Yahya Sinwar
Yahya SinwarAttia Muhammed/Flash90

The IDF is confident that Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar is still hiding in the tunnels beneath Khan Yunis, the Washington Post reported.

The report added that Sinwar is "surrounded by a human shield of hostages intended to deter an operation to capture or kill him."

Israeli officials told the Post that the IDF's operation in Gaza cannot concluded until Sinwar is captured, killed, or no longer in a position to run the Hamas terror organization.

Israeli, U.S. and other Western intelligence and security officials, however, have noted that finding Sinwar may not be as difficult as carrying out a military operation to neutralize him, without harming any of the hostages believed to be nearby.

US officials said they agree with the Israeli assessment that Sinwar is hiding under Khan Yunis and has surrounded himself with hostages.

Israeli soldiers also have discovered evidence that Sinwar may have been one step ahead of them, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said in public remarks earlier this month. According to Israeli press reports, soldiers have found Sinwar’s clothes, notes that he wrote by hand and even a toothbrush he may have used.

In recent days, some officials have speculated that Sinwar may have moved a few miles away to Rafah, on the border with Egypt. Israeli officials have publicly disputed press claims that Sinwar escaped over the border.

One source close to senior Israeli leadership told the Post that removing Sinwar would sever vital ties between Hamas and its international network. We know of course someone else would step into his shoes, but it would either lead to a split or a tremendously weakened Hamas."