There are murderers, there are terrorists, and then there is Mohammed Deif, the terrorist mastermind who has stood atop Israel’s most wanted list since emerging as leader of Hamas’s notorious Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades in the late 1980s.
In the intervening 30 or so years, no enemy of Israel has murdered and maimed more Jews nor caused the Jewish state more pain and heartache than Deif. Israel’s public acknowledgment that Deif was in fact the target of an IDF attack late Tuesday against a building in Gaza’s Shiekh Radwan district thought to include a Deif safehouse may well have marked a turning point in Hamas’s 42-day war against Israel.
Even though Deif’s fate remains uncertain, word that the secretive figure’s inner security cordon had been so brazenly cracked by Israeli intelligence plunged a reeling Hamas high command into an explosion of public murders against its own “brothers.”
“Collaborationist” executions – the most recent of which was the Friday afternoon massacre of seven alleged “informants” rounded up outside a Gaza City mosque, lined up against a nearby wall and shot by masked Hamas gunmen – brings to at least 18 the number of so-called “Zionist collaborators” shot to death by Hamas since Israel’s Tuesday air strikes.
In addition to targeting Deif, subsequent air strikes succeeded in eliminating three other top Hamas terrorist commanders, marking what many military analysts are calling the greatest and most important strategic successes Israel has enjoyed so far during this war and the most grievous losses suffered by Hamas in decades.
Eyewitnesses to Friday’s mass public execution claimed that just before spraying them with a hail of bullets, masked Hamas gunmen cried out, “This is the final moment of Zionist enemy collaborators.”
These seven killings come in addition to eleven similar Hamas executions previously reported not by Israeli news sources but rather by Hamas itself via its al-Majd website.
In his many years at the helm of the terror group, Deif transformed Hamas’s military wing, the so-called Qassam Brigades, into a feared fighting force that demonstrated it could perpetrate terror attacks into and against Israeli civilian and military targets by land, sea, and air.
Deif, whose real name is Muhammed al-Masri, was the target of numerous unsuccessful Israeli attempts against him. Both Israeli intelligence and military sources credited Deif as being the author and implementor of Hamas’s current terror strategy that combines indiscriminate mortar and rocket fire at Israeli civilians with the development of an extensive tunnel network designed to enable well trained Hamas operatives to infiltrate into Israel to perpetrate terror attacks inside Israel and to kidnap Israeli soldiers and civilians.
It was (and may still be) his very ability to survive so many Israeli attempts on his life that did so much to enhance his stature inside the terror group and among supporters of Hamas inside Palestinian society. So cognizant was he of the price Israel put on his head he refused to use any form of electronic or trackable device, insisting upon communicating with field commanders and other subordinates only via trusted couriers.
There has been no official word from either Israel or Hamas as to whether Deif was killed, injured, or left unharmed by Israel’s otherwise successful strikes against Hamas terror masterminds in Gaza. There have been no reported sightings of the slippery Deif since he released a two-minute audio recording that was broadcast on Hamas TV early in August. He used that broadcast to claim that Hamas was winning its war against Israel.
Deif emerged as a leader of Hamas shortly after it was founded in the late in the 1980s. He quickly “distinguished” himself by orchestrating a series of heinous and deadly bus bombings inside Israel to “protest” the Oslo Accords between Israel and the rival Palestinian Authority in the early and mid 1990s. He was lionized in Palestinian society for those attacks that murdered several hundred Israeli civilians and wounded more than a thousand more.
Deif was thought to have assumed control of Hamas’s so called “military wing” after Israel succeeded in killing his equally brutal predecessor, Saleh Shehadeh, in 2002.