Mohammed Deif, Chief Commander of the Qassam Brigades, Hamas’ military arm, is the man behind Israel’s massacre and is responsible for carrying out some of the most deadly attacks that we have seen inside Israel since the Arab-Israeli war in 1973 and its foundation in 1948.
Hamas’ assault on Israel, known as Operation Al-Aqsa Flood has shone a beacon on its leader, Mohammed Deif, a 57-year-old handicapped Palestinian fighter, who was born and raised in the Khan Younis refugee camp during the 1960s.
Deif has been the face of multiple operations ranging from suicide attacks to kidnappings, and over the past 26 years, Israel has marked him as their most wanted individual, attributing the killing of several Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers to him.
Since 2002, Mohammed Deif has led Hamas’ military unit, managing to survive seven Israeli assassination attempts, one of which killed his wife, 7-month-old son and 3-year-old daughter in 2014.
While Deif remains unscathed, earlier attacks left him without an eye, both legs and a missing arm, leaving him to run the Izz ad-Din-al-Qassam Brigades from the confines of a wheelchair over the past two decades.
In an interview with the Financial Times, one of Hamas’ fighters, Ghazi Hamad recalled that he had met and befriended Mohammed Deif in the late 1980s when the First Intifada —the Palestinian uprising— broke out.
Deif in his 20s was arrested and subsequently spent 16 months behind bars.
Hamad who shared a prison cell with Deif said that he “would make little cartoons to make us laugh,” but, “from the beginning of his life in Hamas, he was focused on the military track.”
However, any such signs of compassion quickly dissipated as Deif faced accusations of orchestrating a series of suicide bombings in 1996, resulting in the deaths of over 50 civilians. Further to this, Deif played a pivotal role in the development of Hamas’ first rockets, now numbering in the thousands.
An Israeli official, well-versed in the commander’s security dossier, revealed that it was either Mohammed’s uncle or father who was involved in the 1950 Palestinian raids —the exact same region Hamas infiltrated on Saturday.
Along with other militant members of Hamas, Deif views the Oslo Accords, a negotiated peace settlement agreed upon in the late 1990s, as a betrayal of the resistance and the foundational objective to replace Israel with a Palestinian state.
‘Deif has tried to start the second war of Israeli independence,’ said Eyal Rosen, a colonel in the Israeli army’s reserves.
‘The main goal is — by steps — to destroy Israel. This is one of the first steps — this is just the beginning.’
Officials say the Israeli death toll from Hamas’ surprise attack nears 1,300 Monday and is expected to continue to rise.
‘This is the day of the greatest battle to end the last occupation on earth,’ said Deif.
Deif said the assault on Saturday was in response to the 16-year blockade of Gaza, Israeli raids inside West Bank cities over the past year, escalating tensions at Al Aqsa – the disputed Jerusalem holy site sacred to Jews as the Temple Mount –increasing attacks by settlers on Palestinians and the expansion of settlements.
In a recorded message in a broadcast on Hamas media, Deif asserted “enough is enough.”
He warned the attack was only the start of what is to come calling on Palestinians everywhere to fight.
He declared: ‘Today the people are regaining their revolution.’
Deif’s intentions from the outset can be traced back to an article he wrote in 2010 in which he outlined the group’s vision, saying that “Palestine will remain ours including Al Quds (Jerusalem), Al Aqsa (mosque), its towns and villages from the (Mediterranean) Sea to the (Jordan) River, from its North to its South. You (Israel) have no right to even an inch of it.”