How a Jewish dentist saved the cruel terror leader behind October 7th

Israeli dentist who saved Yahya Sinwar’s life later learned that his nephew was among those abducted on October 7th.

By World Israel News Staff

A senior Israeli intelligence officer who once saved the life of the man who would go on to command the Hamas terror organization later lost his nephew to the massive attacks orchestrated by the same jailed terrorist he aided years earlier, the officer revealed to The New York Times.

Two decades before his rise to infamy as the mastermind behind the October 7th invasion of Israel and the subsequent massacres of Israelis, Yahya Sinwar, chief of Hamas forces in the Gaza Strip, had a brush with death while serving four consecutive life sentences in an Israeli prison.

Sinwar had enlisted in the newly-formed Gaza-based Islamist terror group in the 1980s, and was arrested by Israeli authorities and convicted in 1989 for planning and ordering the abductions and murders of two IDF soldiers and four suspected Arab collaborators a year earlier.

During the 22 years he spent in Israeli prisons, Sinwar continued to work on behalf of Hamas, building up a reputation as a resourceful – and merciless – agent of the terrorist group, orchestrating the decapitation of at least two fellow Arab prisoners he suspected of cooperating with Israeli authorities.

In 2004, however, Sinwar’s health suffered a sudden, precipitous decline, caused by an unknown ailment.

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Disoriented and suffering from recurring fainting spells, Sinwar drew the attention of the prison’s medical staff.

Dr. Yuval Bitton, now a senior intelligence official who was then working as a dentist at Beersheba Prison in southern Israel, recalled in an interview with the Times the day Sinwar’s condition was first noticed.

“What’s going on?” Bitton asked Sinwar, after he spotted several other staffers examining the dazed prisoner.

It was not the first time the two had met.

Dr. Bitton had recently reached out to Sinwar and a number of other prisoners to cooperate with researchers studying suicide bombings.

While evaluating Sinwar’s condition, the jailed terrorist failed to recognize him, Bitton said, despite their having known each other for years.

After hearing a description of his symptoms – fainting, chronic neck pain, and disorientation – Bitton ordered Sinwar to be hospitalized for an emergency neurological evaluation.

Doctors at Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba revealed a rapidly growing brain tumor, which they said would kill Sinwar if it was not removed.

“If he had not been operated on, it would have burst,” Dr. Bitton said.

Sinwar was, Bitton said, profoundly grateful to him personally for saving his life – his religious hatred of Jews notwithstanding.

“Sinwar asked [a Muslim prison officer] to explain to me what it means in Islam that I saved his life,” Bitton saud. “It was important to him that I understood from a Muslim how important this was in Islam — that he owed me his life.”

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After the surgery, the two met regularly for years to drink tea together – until Sinwar’s release in 2011.

Sinwar was one of 1,027 jailed terrorists released by the Netanyahu government in exchange for the freeing of Gilad Shalit, an IDF soldier taken hostage during a cross-border raid by Hamas terrorists in 2006.

Bitton said he lobbied against Sinwar’s release.

“I thought you need to look at the capabilities of the prisoner to use their abilities against Israel and not just what he did — his potential,” Bitton said.

Twelve years later, Hamas terrorists orchestrated the largest ever terror attack against Israel, overwhelming the IDF’s defenses on the Gaza frontier and overrunning Israeli border towns.

The invasion was devised and orchestrated by Sinwar, who in 2017 had been tapped to lead Hamas’ forces in Gaza, after its previous commander, Ismail Haniyeh went into exile, relocating to Qatar.

Some 1,200 Israelis, most of them civilians, were murdered in the attacks, with approximately 250 more taken hostage and dragged into the Gaza Strip.

Bitton’s personal ties to Sinwar now became a life-or-death matter, after Bitton learned that his nephew, 38-year-old Tamir Adar, had been abducted from Kibbutz Nir Oz on the morning of October 7th.

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A resident of the kibbutz, Adar had been shot and wounded while defending the community, before being carried off to the Gaza Strip.

Hoping to remind the Hamas chief of his life debt to him, Bitton gave an interview after Adar’s abduction, revealing his familial connection to the captive.

In January, 2024,  however, Israeli intelligence revealed that in contrast to earlier assessments, it appeared that Adar had succumbed to his wounds shortly after his capture.

In his interview with the Times, Bitton opined that had his nephew not succumbed to his wounds, Sinwar would likely have ensured his survival.

“Beyond the fact that we are enemies, at the end of the day there is also his personal outlook,” Dr. Bitton said. “In my opinion, he would treat him the same way I did, saving his life despite being an enemy.”