Mohammed Deif, the reclusive leader of Hamas’s military wing, the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, released a pre-recorded message Tuesday night on Hamas-controlled Al Aqsa Television, claiming victory over Israeli forces and urging followers to stay steadfast in their fight.
“The Zionist military is defeated. It understands that the balance of power has changed,” Deif said, according to an Israel Radio report.
He warned chillingly, “our soldiers yearn for death the way the Zionist soldiers yearn for life.”
Ignoring completely the hundreds of rockets fired from Gaza into Israel before the start of Operation Protective Edge, Deif declared, “The Zionists began a barbaric criminal attack, killing our women and children and wreaking havoc on our homes with their bombs. The enemy soldiers cannot handle our soldiers, and they open fire only at civilian targets so that they can kill as many innocent civilians as possible.”
“The enemy soldiers have realized that they are fighting against a nation that stands strong with soldiers who crave war and are not afraid to die for their homeland. All the factions of the Palestinian people are united — and that unity has made it victorious. The enemy knows it is sending its soldiers to an inferno,” he said.
The target of five assassination attempts by Israel, Deif has been in hiding for years, and is assumed to be severely disfigured. He rose to power in the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades in 2002, after the previous commander, Salah Shehadeh, was killed by Israel.
Deif is responsible for the organization and implementation of many terrorist attacks, including the kidnapping and murder of Israeli soldier Nachshon Waxman in 1994 and two bus bombings in Jerusalem in 1996. Due to the severity of his injuries, it is suspected his second-in-command, Marwan Issa, actually controls the Brigades, but Deif continues to hold sway.
Although reports went out earlier the same day that Hamas political leader, Khaled Mashaal, had agreed to a 24-hour humanitarian truce, Deif rejected any form of ceasefire unless Hamas’s demands were met. He echoed the message of the terrorist entity’s spokesman, Sami Abu-Zuhri, saying, “No ceasefire in Gaza before ending [the Israeli] aggression and lifting the siege,” Deif said. “We will not accept any compromises.”
He outlined the group’s demands: “The Zionist entity will not be safe as long as our people are being bombed and living under siege,” he said.
“A cease-fire can only be reached when the enemy’s attack in Gaza ends, the blockade is lifted, all crossings are opened, and the Zionist army removes all its forces from Gazan land. If these conditions are not met, we will continue with our campaign.”
Deif was not alone in declaring Israel defeated. Also Tuesday, in a speech before hundreds of thousands gathered in Tehran and broadcast on Iranian television, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei claimed, “the Zionist regime deeply regrets starting this [war] but has no way out.”
Khamenei attacked Israel for its action in Gaza, saying, “This rabid dog, this rapacious wolf, has attacked innocent people and humanity must show a reaction. This is genocide, a catastrophe of historical scale.”
“They have been pounding innocent people day and night and these men women and children are defending themselves with minimum means, and now Americans and Europeans want to take even that away…so that those merciless beasts could pound without qualm.”
Taking issue with US opposition to Hamas in its attempt to obtain weapons and missiles, he called on the world to arm the Palestinians in their struggle. “”Everyone, whoever has the means, especially in the Islamic world, they should do what they can to arm the Palestinian nation,” he said.
Khamenei’s speech marked the end of the month-long fast of Ramadan for Muslims. He was joined by senior government officials.