Israeli officials identify 2 Hamas leaders it says are responsible for attack,

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A senior Israeli official told CBS News this week that he believes Hamas leaders Yahya Sinwar and El Deif are behind the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel which left at least 1,300 people dead.

“It’s Sinwar and Deif,” Ron Dermer, Israel’s minister of strategic affairs and a member of its new war cabinet, told CBS News in an interview in Tel Aviv. “There are two people in Gaza. They’re the ones who are responsible specifically for this attack. But they are backed, again, by Iran. They are backed financially. They are backed with weapons. They are backed with training, with logistics, with communication, with political support. Iran is the source of so many of the problems of the Middle East.”

Israeli military spokesman Lt. Col. Richard Hecht also singled out Sinwar in a briefing Saturday.

“That man is in our sights,” Hecht said on Saturday. “He is a dead man walking and we will get to that man.”

Yahya Sinwar
Yahya Sinwar, head of the militant group Hamas in the Gaza Strip, waves his hand to the crowd during the celebration of International Quds Day in Gaza City on April 14, 2023. 

Yousef Masoud/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images


Biden administration officials have said, since the war began, that Iran has long supported Hamas with material, financial and logistical support, but that to date no evidence had been unearthed to link the attacks to Tehran.

However, several U.S. officials told CBS News that U.S. intelligence appeared to indicate Iran was taken by surprise by Hamas’ assault on Israel, which has killed at least 1,300 people and left 3,200 more wounded.

Dermer believes the question of whether Iran was specifically aware of the “timing of this specific” Oct. 7 attack is inconsequential, given that intelligence shows that a vast majority of Hamas’ funding comes from Iran.

“There’s a question of whether Iran knew about the timing of this specific attack,” Dermer said. “But Iran is behind Hamas. Hamas, 93% of their military budget, is Iran. They have meetings all the time, Iran and Hamas. So whether they knew that the attack was gonna happen on this day, or three days later, or a week later, or two weeks later, that’s a separate question. Without Iran this attack cannot happen. That I can assure you.”

Ron Dermer, Israel's minister of strategic affairs and a member of its new war cabinet
Ron Dermer, Israel’s minister of strategic affairs and a member of its new war cabinet, in an interview with CBS News. October 2023. 

CBS News


When asked if an Israeli attack on Iran is under consideration, Dermer described Iran as a “country that works every single day for Israel’s destruction.”

“So we will do whatever we have to do to defend ourselves, to prevent such a regime, who denies the first Holocaust — and would like to perpetrate a second one — to deny such a regime from developing nuclear weapons,” Dermer added. 

He also drew comparisons between the Oct. 7 attack and 9/11.

“When Israel loses 1,300, when 1,300 people are murdered, that’s like 50,000 Americans being murdered on a single day,” Dermer said. “Today, with the numbers we see, it’s twenty 9/11s. And we’re not dealing with a terrorist organization thousands of miles away like you did after 9/11. We’re dealing with a terrorist organization in our backyard, literally meters away from people’s homes.”

When asked about the safety of Gaza’s over 2 million residents, Dermer blamed Hamas for any civilian casualties. Since the war began, at least 2,670 people in Gaza have been killed in Israel’s retaliatory counterstrikes, and 9,600 injured, according to the Gaza Health Ministry.

— Olivia Gazis contributed to this report.

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