2 weeks after conflict, Hamas power vacuum not filled

Palestinians say terror chief Deif likely seriously hurt in strike; another leader lost legs in elevator accident

Avi Issacharoff

Avi Issacharoff, The Times of Israel's Middle East analyst, fills the same role for Walla, the leading portal in Israel. He is also a guest commentator on many different radio shows and current affairs programs on television. Until 2012, he was a reporter and commentator on Arab affairs for the Haaretz newspaper. He also lectures on modern Palestinian history at Tel Aviv University, and is currently writing a script for an action-drama series for the Israeli satellite Television "YES." Born in Jerusalem, he graduated cum laude from Ben Gurion University with a B.A. in Middle Eastern studies and then earned his M.A. from Tel Aviv University on the same subject, also cum laude. A fluent Arabic speaker, Avi was the Middle East Affairs correspondent for Israeli Public Radio covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the war in Iraq and the Arab countries between the years 2003-2006. Avi directed and edited short documentary films on Israeli television programs dealing with the Middle East. In 2002 he won the "best reporter" award for the "Israel Radio” for his coverage of the second intifada. In 2004, together with Amos Harel, he wrote "The Seventh War - How we won and why we lost the war with the Palestinians." A year later the book won an award from the Institute for Strategic Studies for containing the best research on security affairs in Israel. In 2008, Issacharoff and Harel published their second book, entitled "34 Days - The Story of the Second Lebanon War," which won the same prize.

Members of Hamas's Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades (Rahim Khatib/Flash90)
Members of Hamas's Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades (Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

Palestinian officials said Thursday that the fate of Hamas commander Muhammed Deif remained uncertain, but assessed that the terror chief was seriously injured in the Israeli strike on his Sheikh Radwan residence on August 20 that claimed the lives of his wife and two children.

Hamas maintained that the elusive commander of its military wing, who escaped multiple attempts on his life, was alive. However, on September 7, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman suggested that Deif was dead, saying that “if, until today, we haven’t heard his voice on a tape and we haven’t seen any sign of life from him, there is room for optimism.”

The sources said that Hamas commander Marwan Issa continues to fill in as head of the terror group’s military wing, and that replacements had yet to be appointed for Raed Al-Attar, commander of the Rafah area, and Muhammad Abu Shamala, the head of the Hamas southern command, who were assassinated by Israel on August 21.

The Palestinian officials added that Ayman Nofel has recently become a prominent figure in Hamas’s military wing. Nofel was held in an Egyptian prison until the January 2011 uprising, when he escaped to Sinai, and later to the Gaza Strip.

Hamas military wing commander Muhammad Deif
Hamas military wing commander Muhammad Deif

Another Hamas leader, Imad al-Alami, was involved in a serious accident during the military campaign that caused him to lose both legs. Al-Alami was meant to join a delegation to ceasefire talks in Cairo on behalf of Hamas, but upon exiting a bunker in the heart of the city, the small elevator that carried him collapsed in the shaft, sources in the Gaza Strip said. Earlier reports had indicated that the senior Hamas leader had his legs broken in an internal Hamas dispute.

Hamas official Khalil al-Hayya replaced him in the Cairo ceasefire talks.

Alami is largely considered one of the heads of Hamas in the Gaza Strip. For years he lived in various Arab countries and traveled between Damascus, Tehran and other places. In the past few years, he moved to the Gaza Strip and served as a link between its military and political wings. He is currently undergoing treatment in a hospital in Turkey.

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