The Israeli military has been chasing Mohammed Deif for 25 years, having attempted to eliminate him at least seven times, but Deif continues to elude the powerful intelligence wing of Israel.
Meanwhile, Israel and Hamas called a truce and agreed to a ceasefire ending hostilities that brought widespread destruction in the Gaza Strip and left over 200 people dead.
Israel Defence Forces (IDF) said it had tried to target Mohammad Deif, who is the supreme military commander of Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, at least twice in the current bombing campaign over Gaza.
He was also reportedly the reason Israel had been rejecting calls for a ceasefire amid reports of more than 200 Palestinians losing their lives in the incessant bombings in the last ten days.
Although the Israeli forces were able to neutralize many of his commanders in precision strikes in Gaza, Deif remains elusive.
“When this ends, we want Hamas to have taken a really serious blow,” Jerusalem Post wrote quoting a senior official in Jerusalem, adding that the operation will continue “as long as we think we can inflict more serious punishment on Hamas and degrade their capabilities.”
The paper said that “it was one of the primary goals of the IDF’s military operation to kill top Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad commanders.”
Israeli media on Sunday quoted the head of the IDF Southern Command, Maj.-Gen. Eliezer Toledano as saying that both Mohammed Deif and Hamas’s Gaza leader Yahya Sinwar were a target of Israeli strikes.
Who is Mohammed Deif
Having grown up in the Khan Yunis refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip, Mohammad Deif is said to close to 50 years of age.
Acting as the commander of Iz al-Din al-Qassam, Hamas’s military wing, Mohammed Deif has been a wanted man in Israel for about three decades now. He has been the key strategist of the group’s military wing since the mid-1990s.
Deif has mysteriously emerged alive after several attempts on his life by Israel during this period.
After narrowly escaping another attempt on his life when the second intifada was at its peak, he emerged unscathed in an attack that was believed to have killed him. He was back at leading Hamas’s military wing after the killing of its commander, Ahmed Jabari, by the Israeli Air Force strike, in November 2012.
Despite being grievously wounded in several attempts on his life, Deif began laying down an extensive tunnel network to prepare for the future war. He continues to be a major worry for Israeli forces which have been targeting him using precision airstrikes.
Israel blames Mohammad Deif for the kidnappings and murders of Israeli soldiers Shahar Simani in April 1994 and Aryeh Frankenthal in July 1994. In addition, he is accused of aiding and ordering a militant group in October 1994 to kidnap and kill Israeli soldier Nachshon Wachsman.
He is also accused of being involved in the bus bombings that rocked Israel in the 1990s.
Under Deif’s command, Hamas is said to have considerably enhanced the quality of their missile and rocket arsenal. The range and intensity of the missiles being fired by Hamas at Israel have surprised the country’s security experts, who are accusing Iran of supplying such weapons to Hamas.
One such type of missile Hamas is using, the Ayyash, has a range of 250 km. According to Hamas spokesperson, the missile was used in the current strikes being was carried out against Israel on the orders of Deif.
Hamas releases footage of the "Ayash 250" long-range rocket which they fired earlier today toward Ramon Airport near Eilat. The rocket impacted an open area. pic.twitter.com/nheyT2o5Aw
— Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian (@manniefabian) May 13, 2021
Although Israel is again failing to eliminate Deif, they have dismantled a significant number of tunnel networks and missile infrastructure employed by the militant organization.
Israel claims it has killed over 160 members of Hamas and PIJ (Palestine Islamic Jihad) during the 10 days of fighting in the Gaza Strip.
More than 3,000 rockets have been launched by Hamas into Israeli territory since the fighting began, claiming the lives of 10 Israelis.
Meanwhile, according to Jerusalem Post, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Quds Force commander Esmail Qaani has sent a letter to Mohammed Deif, expressing support for the Palestinian resistance groups in Gaza on Thursday.
The Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades
The Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades have been in existence since 1991, established to provide Hamas with a military capability.
Initially, the Brigades operated clandestinely in secret tunnels, planning and strategizing attacks against Israel. However, after Hamas gained control of Gaza in 2007 and started governing the territory, the Brigades evolved and improvised to become a more traditional military force, with a predominant presence in Gaza, and some level of representation in the West Bank.
Being Hamas’s military wing, the Brigades seek to establish Islamic rule through the unification of Israel and the Palestinian Territories.
Al-Qassam is blamed for carrying out suicide bombings in 1993 and killing more than 500 people in around 350 separate attacks. The attacks changed to small-arms fire and rocket and mortar fire launch after 2005, all of which was directed at Israeli military assets and communities in the vicinity of Gaza.
The latest battle has seen the deployment of more advanced missiles by Hamas, which experts say could have been partly or wholly supplied by Iran. Other countries suspected to have supplied weapons to the al-Qassam Brigades include Syria, Sudan, North Korea, and even nations like Lebanon.
Most bombs used by the Brigades are indigenously assembled, usually from homemade or smuggled material, which is often considered dangerous because the bombs are unguided.
Al-Qassam has launched missiles at multiple Israeli airports, military installations, and civilian neighborhoods in Israel in the current conflict. The website of the group released a video showing an Israeli army bus being targeted with an anti-tank guided missile.
However, the missile attack only resulted in an injury to one army man, according to Israeli authorities.
The military wing of Hamas, al-Qassam Brigades, published a video of an ATGM attack against a bus near Zikim base. One soldier was lightly wounded, according to Israeli reports. #Gaza #Israel pic.twitter.com/gjmHQgdvMo
— Joe Truzman (@Jtruzmah) May 20, 2021
Al-Monitor quoted a local arms dealer in Gaza who revealed that “the military factions in Gaza, headed by Hamas, possess distinct types of Iranian R-160 and Fajr-5 missiles with a range of 100 kilometers (62 miles). They also have drones and anti-tank missiles and shoulder-launched rockets produced by Russia.”
The Brigades also plan to acquire Chinese C-704 missiles, anti-ship missiles with a range of 35 kilometers (21 miles), and radar systems for guided missiles, he added.