Oct 11 (The Street Press) – Israel described the recent devastating attack by Hamas as a significant event, comparing it to the 9/11 tragedy. The person behind the attack, a Palestinian militant named Mohammed Deif, referred to it as the “Al Aqsa Flood”.
In an audio tape broadcast while Hamas launched thousands of rockets from the Gaza Strip on Saturday, the term “Israel’s most wanted man” was used. This suggested that the attack was in retaliation for Israeli actions at Jerusalem’s Al Aqsa mosque.
In May 2021, after a raid on Islam’s third holiest site that angered the Arab and Muslim world, Mohammed Deif started planning the operation, which has resulted in the deaths of 1,200 people in Israel and left more than 2,700 others wounded, according to a source with ties to Hamas.
The events leading to this were sparked by disturbing scenes and videos of Israeli forces entering Al Aqsa mosque during Ramadan, where they were seen beating and attacking worshippers, even forcibly removing elderly and young men from the mosque. This deeply inflamed and ignited the anger of many. The incident at the mosque, which has historically been a source of tension due to issues of sovereignty and religion in Jerusalem, played a significant role in the 11 days of conflict between Israel and Hamas.
More than two years later, the attack that occurred on Saturday marked the most significant breach in Israeli defenses since the 1973 Arab-Israeli conflict. In response, Israel declared war and carried out retaliatory airstrikes in Gaza, resulting in the loss of 1,055 lives and the injury of more than 5,000 individuals. Israel also claimed to have eliminated at least 1,000 Palestinian fighters who had infiltrated from Gaza.
Mohammed Deif, a survivor of seven Israeli assassination attempts, the latest one occurring in 2021, rarely addresses the public and avoids public appearances. So, when Hamas’s TV channel announced his upcoming statement on Saturday, it signaled to Palestinians that something of great importance was unfolding.
In the recording, Deif conveyed, “Today the rage of Al Aqsa, the rage of our people and nation is exploding. Our mujahedeen (fighters), today is your day to make this criminal understand that his time has ended”.
Only three images of Deif are known to exist: one from his youth, another with him wearing a mask, and an image of his shadow, which was used when the audio tape was broadcast.
The exact location of Deif remains undisclosed, but it is highly likely that he is in Gaza, possibly within the intricate network of tunnels beneath the enclave. According to an Israeli security source, Deif was directly involved in both the planning and execution of the attack.
According to Palestinian sources, one of the homes targeted by Israeli airstrikes in Gaza belonged to Deif’s father. Tragically, his brother and two other family members lost their lives in these strikes, as reported by these sources.
TWO BRAINS AND ONE MASTERMIND
A source with close ties to Hamas explained that the decision to plan the attack was made in collaboration between Mohammed Deif, who commands Hamas’s Al Qassam Brigades, and Yehya Sinwar, the leader of Hamas in Gaza. However, it was evident that Deif played a central role as the chief architect of the operation.
The source emphasized, “There are two brains, but there is one mastermind,” highlighting the collaboration between Deif and Sinwar. Information about the operation was closely guarded and limited to only a select few Hamas leaders.
The secrecy was so well-maintained that even Iran, a significant supporter of Hamas in terms of financing, training, and weaponry, had only general knowledge that a major operation was being planned. They were unaware of the specific timing or details of the operation, according to a regional source familiar with Hamas’s perspective.
The source went on to explain that this operation was kept within a very exclusive and tight circle, not discussed in joint operation rooms that involved Hamas, Palestinian leadership, Iranian-backed Hezbollah, or Iran.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s top authority, stated on Tuesday that Tehran was not involved in the attack on Israel. The U.S. has acknowledged that Iran may have played a complicit role but lacks intelligence or evidence indicating direct Iranian participation in the attacks.
The plan orchestrated by Deif was characterized by a deliberate effort to deceive Israel. They were led to believe that Hamas, an ally of Iran, was primarily focused on economic development in Gaza and not interested in initiating a conflict, despite their association with Iran. Consequently, Israel initiated economic incentives for Gazan workers. In the meantime, Hamas fighters were secretly undergoing training and drills, often within view of the Israeli military, as revealed by a source with close ties to Hamas.
“We have prepared for this battle for two years,” stated Ali Baraka, the head of external relations for Hamas.
In a composed tone, Deif conveyed in his recording that Hamas had consistently warned Israel to cease its actions against Palestinians, including the mistreatment and torture of prisoners, as well as the appropriation of Palestinian land. He added, “Every day the occupation storm our villages, towns and cities in the West Bank and raid houses, kill, injure, destroy and detain. At the same time, it confiscates thousands of acres of our land, uproots our people from their houses to build settlements while its criminal siege continues on Gaza.”
THE MAN IN THE SHADOWS
For more than a year, the West Bank, a region approximately 100 km long and 50 km wide, which has been central to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since Israel’s occupation in 1967, has experienced ongoing turmoil.
Deif explained that Hamas had implored the international community to intervene and stop the “crimes of the occupation.” However, Israel had intensified its provocations. He also mentioned that Hamas had previously sought a humanitarian agreement with Israel to release Palestinian prisoners, but this request had been declined.
“In light of the orgy of occupation and its denial of international laws and resolutions, and in light of American and western support and international silence, we’ve decided to put an end to all this,” he declared.
Born in 1965 as Mohammad Masri in the Khan Yunis Refugee Camp, which was established after the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, the militant leader adopted the name Mohammed Deif upon joining Hamas during the first Intifada, the Palestinian uprising that began in 1987.
Deif was detained by Israel in 1989 and spent around 16 months in captivity, according to a Hamas source.
He pursued higher education, earning a science degree from the Islamic University in Gaza, where he studied physics, chemistry, and biology. In addition to his scientific pursuits, he had an interest in the arts, leading the university’s entertainment committee and even performing in comedic plays.
Climbing the ranks within Hamas, Deif played a crucial role in expanding the group’s tunnel network and expertise in bomb-making. He has remained at the top of Israel’s most wanted list for many years and has been held responsible for numerous Israeli casualties in suicide bombings.
Staying in the shadows has been a matter of life or death for Deif. Hamas sources revealed that he lost an eye and suffered severe injuries in one leg during one of Israel’s attempts to assassinate him.
Tragically, his wife, 7-month-old son, and 3-year-old daughter were killed in an Israeli airstrike in 2014.
Deif’s remarkable survival while leading Hamas’s armed wing has elevated him to the status of a Palestinian folk hero. In videos, he is either masked or only a shadowy figure is visible. He avoids modern digital technology like smartphones, according to the source with close ties to Hamas.
“He is elusive. He is the man in the shadows,” the source emphasized.