Hidden Hamas military chief threatens Israel

Muhammad Deif hints that land operation would present opportunity to kidnap IDF soldiers

Elhanan Miller is the former Arab affairs reporter for The Times of Israel

Hamas gunmen on parade. (photo credit: YouTube screen capture)
Hamas gunmen on parade. (photo credit: YouTube screen capture)

The commander of Hamas’s armed wing sent a rare message from his hiding place Tuesday, threatening to abduct Israeli soldiers who would enter Gaza as part of a ground offensive.

In an audio message broadcast by Hamas’s Al-Aqsa TV station on Tuesday afternoon, Muhammad Deif, the official commander of the Izz ad-Din Al-Qassam Brigades, praised the conduct of Hamas operatives in the field and expressed hope that the military conflict with Israel would be “a launching point for the coming stage of liberation.”

In the voice recording, Deif tacitly threatened to kidnap IDF soldiers if the army launches a ground operation in the Gaza Strip, in order to trade them for Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails.

Deif has not appeared in public since being critically wounded in an Israeli airstrike in July 2006. Ahmed Jabari, who was killed by Israel last Wednesday in an airstrike that marked the beginning of Operation Defensive Shield, was officially Deif’s deputy but effectively led Al-Qassam’s operations after Deif’s injury.

“The land war with which they are threatening us will be, God willing, the biggest hope for prisoner release,” Deif said.

Although his whereabouts are unknown even to Hamas operatives, Deif reassured his listeners that he was following military developments on the ground, and called on the greater Islamic nation to “mobilize all of its forces to uproot” Israel.

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