Israel’s hit list: IDF has tried to kill elusive Hamas commander Mohammed Deif twice in nine-day Gaza campaign and wants more time to find one-eyed, triple-amputee terrorist mastermind who recruits suicide bombers before it calls ceasefire (In Part From the Daily Mail:)
Israel twice tried and failed to kill Hamas’s top military commander last week but he survived both attacks, a spokesman for the Israel Defence Forces has said.
Mohammed Deif, 55, commander of Hamas’s Qassam Brigades which have carried out terror attacks including bus bombings in Israel, was targeted during strikes in Gaza last Monday but escaped unscathed, the IDF says.
It is hardly the first time the IDF has tried to kill Deif. Strikes in 2001, 2002, 2006 and 2014 left him without an eye, cost him both legs and an arm, and killed his wife and two children, according to Israeli security sources.
Meet Israel’s no. 1 enemy, Mohammed Deif head of Hamas’ military wing
From a 2014 Interview:
“He’s a legend for the children, for everyone in Gaza.”
“He is defending our homeland,” agreed Yassin Abu Rialah, 14.
To Israelis, Mohammed Deif is enemy number one. As the top commander of the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’ military wing, Deif has tormented the Jewish state for three decades, deploying suicide bombers and directing the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers. He has survived several attempts by Israel to assassinate him, earning him the nickname “the cat with nine lives”.
Deif is the mastermind of the Palestinian militant group’s current strategy of firing rockets at Israel and building tunnel networks through which highly trained fighters can infiltrate Israel, according to Israeli military and intelligence officials.
Those and other tactics have killed 63 Israeli soldiers and three civilians inside Israel since the war began on July 8, making Deif the most wanted man in Gaza.
As Israel presses forward with its ground offensive, Deif is also viewed by some Israeli military analysts as a key obstacle to a negotiated end to the conflict.
Al-Qassam Brigades fighters on Friday attacked Israeli soldiers and, according to Israel’s military, abducted an officer – shattering a 72-hour humanitarian truce brokered by the United States and the United Nations. Early on Sunday, Israel’s military said the officer was killed in battle. The attack and other ceasefire breaches by Hamas reflect divisions between the organisation’s political and military wings, with the latter wielding greater influence, analysts said.
“The decision-maker in Hamas is Mohammed Deif, leader of the military wing, and he is against the ceasefire because he believes every day they continue to fight is another achievement for them,” said retired General Giora Eiland, a former Israeli national security adviser.
To Palestinians, Deif is a heroic figure, one of the last remaining leaders from Hamas’ first and second generations, long admired for his defiance of Israel.
A former stage actor, he is said to be a master of disguise, known for a chameleon-like ability to melt into the population.
He is thought to be about 50, but the last known photo of him dates back two decades. Little is known about his family life. No one even knows whether Deif is his real name. Some analysts say his name is actually Mohammed al-Masri and that he took his nom de guerre from a role he took in a play at university.
Today, the softly spoken Deif is rumoured to be in a wheelchair after an Israeli attack in 2006 that also cost him an eye and an arm.
Seven other senior Hamas commanders were also targeted in strikes, a military spokesman added, saying that some were injured but all survived.
Among the targets was the home of Yahya Sinwar, dubbed the ‘butcher of Khan Younis’ – Hamas’s leader in Gaza and creator of the brigade which Deif leads.
His home was destroyed, though he is not thought to have been in it at the time.
The IDF began giving away details of its ‘hit list’ as commanders called for more time to continue the hunt amid growing pressure for a ceasefire.
Eliezer Toledano, head of IDF’s southern command, told Channel 12 that the more time the military is given to destroy its targets ‘the better’ – picking out Deif and Sinwar as being ‘in Israel’s sights’.
A senior Israeli official also told news site Haaretz that Netanyahu is reluctant to stop the fighting despite without a ‘clear victory’, despite pressure from within the government to do so.
Hamas has since denied that Deif was targeted twice last week, saying the reports are designed as ‘psychological warfare’.
Deif ‘is continuing to direct the fighting with complete control’, according to sources close to Hamas’s military leadership.
Israel continued its bombing campaign overnight in the Gaza Strip, saying 122 bombs were dropped by 52 jets in 25, destroying seven miles of Hamas tunnels.
The bombing raids aimed to destroy tunnels used in the kidnap and killing of IDF soldier Hadar Goldin during the fighting in 2014, the Times of Israel reported.
Meanwhile Israel is braced for more violence in the West Bank today after violent protests near the town of Ramallah and Nablus on Tuesday, during which two IDF soldiers and three Palestinians were hurt in shootings.
Violent clashes also broke out around holy sites including Damascus Gate and the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem after a call for ‘a day of rage’ in solidarity with those in Gaza, Ynet reported.
So far the violence has claimed at least 227 lives – 215 Palestinians including almost 100 women and children, and 12 people in Israel, including two children.
As the death toll rises, calls for a ceasefire grow – with France last night circulating a draft resolution at the UN security council following negotiations with Egypt and Jordan.
The move is said to have taken the US – which has three times blocked a joint statement condemning the violence – by surprise.
A resolution is a stronger step than a joint statement, and if all other members backed it then the US would have to issue a veto to stop it, something Joe Biden is thought to be reluctant to do.
Elsewhere, Haaretz reported that ‘if there is no surprise turn of events’ then a ceasefire would be declared on Thursday – with similar reports also emerging in Egyptian media.
But Israel and Hamas were quick to deny the reports, with Israeli site Ynet reporting that while both sides agree on ending the conflict soon, each wants the other to stop shooting first.
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