Who is Mohammed Deif, the mastermind of the attack on Israel: he has been in a wheelchair for 20 years


By John

«It will be Israel’s September 11th». This is the phrase with which Mohammed Deif he announced to his men the plan to strike the Jewish state by surprise. Deif is considered the mastermind behind the attack that began on October 7, the first name on Israel’s most wanted list. A man who lost his wife and children and has been confined to a wheelchair for 20 years. The same man who a few days ago, with an audio message, started the operation that is setting the Middle East on fire: «We are determined to put an end to the policies with which America and the West trample on international law, to the madness of this occupation, to the continuous crimes committed against our people. Let’s make our enemy understand that he will no longer be able to move forward without paying the price for his actions.”

A message spread with a calm and decisive voice by what is considered one of the most influential leaders of Hamas, the top of the group’s military wing, the Izzedin el-Kassam brigades. And that Deif is the leading exponent of the Palestinian terrorist organization is confirmed by the fact that in the last 12 months the Israeli secret services have planned five different plans to kill him. Attempts failed, but cost the lives of the Hamas leader’s wife and children. An episode that increased the anger of a man whose life very few elements are known, which emerged piece by piece from Israeli army dossiers that ended up in the Israeli media.

Born in the Khan Younes refugee camp in the 1960s, when Gaza was under Egyptian control, his real name is Mohammed Diab Ibrahim el Masri. His father and uncle were among the Palestinian militiamen who infiltrated Israel in the 1950s. The young Mohammed studies at the Islamic University of Gaza where he becomes close to the Muslim Brotherhood and begins to take part in demonstrations against the Jewish state and clashes with the security forces, who arrest him several times. As a young prisoner he met Gazi Hamad, one of the most influential figures at the time when the weight of Hamas in the Gaza Strip was consolidating. The young Mohammed is enraptured and fully embraces the organisation’s philosophy. Once released from prison, he gradually climbed the ranks within the terrorist group, planning attacks which in 1996 cost the lives of more than 50 Israeli citizens and contributed to ruining the agreements concluded three years earlier in Oslo. Agreements concluded by Yasser Arafat which however Hamas never accepted.

Israel intensifies the embargo on Gaza and Mohammed Deif focuses on new technologies that allow it to strike the Jewish state. It finds ways to create small bombs that explode in buses in Israeli cities and produce rockets to overcome the difficulties of getting weapons through the tunnels that the Israeli army systematically destroys. Technologies that Deif develops thanks to the contribution of another historical figure of the Palestinian resistance, Yahya Ayyash, known not by chance as “the engineer”. A CV that made Deif jump to the top of the wanted list ten years ago. However, the secret services of the Jewish state have been hunting him since long before.

The news of his killing in an air raid dates back 20 years ago. But the Mossad’s satisfaction is soon dampened: Deif has lost his legs but is still alive and ready to fight against Israel even from a wheelchair. An episode that contributes to increasing his myth within the Palestinian resistance, with young people starting to venerate him as a divinity. Disinterested in politics and the fight with Al Fatah, in recent years he has gradually imposed his own doctrine: Israel must be fought in the illegally occupied territories, the Izzedin Al Qassam brigades must be made up of Palestinians only, it is necessary to create an apparatus that allows the production of weapons and rockets directly to Gaza, without the need to import them. A system set up, according to Israel, with Qatari funds, which allowed the Palestinian guerrilla to produce the first drone in 2014, but also to grow an industry that has fed many people over the years. In the messages issued before the conflict, Deif highlighted the weakness of the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who tried to hide the cracks of a divided public opinion with violence. For Mohammed Deif the moment had come to strike and Hamas followed him without hesitation.