Who is Mohammed Al-Deif, Al-Qassam Brigades’ Commander-in-Chief? – PROFILE

A profile of Mohammed al-Deif, commander-in-chief of the Al-Qassam Brigades. (Image: PC)

By Robert Inlakesh

Deif is the first person to officially name the Hamas military operation ‘Al-Aqsa Flood’ and is amongst the most wanted Israeli targets within the Palestinian Resistance.

Although there are few existing photos of Mohammed al-Deif, his shadowy image has earned him a place as a living symbol of the Palestinian armed struggle against the Israeli occupation. 

As the Commander-In-Chief of the Hamas armed wing, Izz ad-Din al-Qassam brigades, he rarely makes public statements and is believed to have masterminded the attack against Israel that took place on October 7.

Only three photos report to show Mohammed al-Deif, otherwise known as Abu Khaled (father of Khaled): one of them showing his face, another showing him masked and the third reported to be revealing his shadow; a widely used image that has been displayed over audio recordings which are released by Hamas. 

To Israel, Deif is viewed in a similar light to how Iranian Quds Force Commander, Qassem Soleimani, a man to be feared for his shrewd military mind.

Born in 1965, inside Khan Younis refugee camp located in Southern Gaza, Deif is the son of refugee parents who were violently forced from their home village of Al-Qubayba in 1948. 

Zionist militia forces, belonging to the Givati brigades, destroyed the majority of the homes in their village, sparing only a few homes that were taken over by Israeli settlers. The settlements of Ge’alya and Kfar Gevirol were constructed on the remains of the ethnically cleansed village, now falling in the Rehovot area that is often targeted by rocket fire from Gaza.

Deif is said to have been arrested once by Israeli forces, in 1989, and was held for 16 months, although there are few details on his detention beyond a testimony shared by Hamas politburo member, Hamad Ghazi, who shared a cell with Abu Khaled. 

As for his educational background, we know that Deif had studied at the Islamic University of Gaza, receiving a degree in science.

He also excelled in the arts, headed the entertainment committee in the University and was reported to have even performed on-stage comedy, which is something that Hamad Ghazi claimed was part of his “kind” personality while held hostage as a political prisoner by Israel.

After that, he joined the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas), which some media outlets claim happened within the first few years of the groups formation. 

Deif was said to have quickly risen in the ranks of the movement and studied under the well known Palestinian explosive designer, Yahya Ayyash, who is often labeled ‘The Engineer’ for having figured out how to domestically manufacture explosives inside Palestine. 

In 2002, after Israeli airstrikes assassinated the founder of the Qassam Brigades, Salah Shehadeh, who Deif then replaced.

Israel accuses Mohammed al-Deif of being responsible for countless attacks on Israeli soldiers and the mastermind behind a number of military operations, for which the occupation army has tried to assassinate him 5 separate times. 

While he escaped death in all of these cases, Israeli airstrikes targeted and killed his wife, 7-month-old son and 3-year-old daughter in the war launched by Israel on Gaza in 2014.

During the first days of the current war on Gaza, which began on October 7, Deif’s brother, along with other members of his family, were killed after an Israeli airstrike targeted their home. 

When Deif released an audio message, while Palestinian fighters were in the process of dismantling the Israeli military’s presence surrounding Gaza and entering settlements, it became apparent that the attack was of the utmost severity. 

Even during the 11-day war of 2021, Mohammed al-Deif had not sent out a publicly broadcasted message. In fact, the last time we heard his voice was back in 2014. Deif is the first person to officially name the Hamas military operation ‘Al-Aqsa Flood’ and is amongst the most wanted Israeli targets.

(The Palestine Chronicle)

– Robert Inlakesh is a journalist, writer, and documentary filmmaker. He focuses on the Middle East, specializing in Palestine. He contributed this article to The Palestine Chronicle.

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