Mohammed Deif, the leader of the Al Qassam Brigades — the military wing of Hamas — has become an increasingly popular figure across Palestine. His name has been used in protest chants in Jerusalem and the al-Aqsa mosque.
It was Deif who announced the start of the offensive in a recorded message in the early morning hours of Saturday, 7 October 2023. Hamas launched hundreds of rockets into Israel while its foot soldiers infiltrated Gaza's eastern borders in a stunning and unprecedented attack, catching Israel by complete surprise.
Militants not only took over several Israeli settlements, killing many but managed to bring back dozens of Israeli soldiers and civilians into Gaza to use as bargaining chips later.
Deif has long been a wanted man in Israel. He has earned a reputation for following through with his threats when Israeli forces continue their crimes against Palestinians in the West Bank. He has been a vocal critic of Israeli settlement expansion and settler incursions in the Al Aqsa Mosque compound.
Israel has accused Deif of orchestrating numerous high-profile military operations against Israeli targets. Remarkably, he has survived multiple assassination attempts, the most recent of which was Israel's 2014 assault on Gaza.
Deif's public persona remains shrouded in mystery. He avoids public and media appearances and communicates only through recorded audio messages or written statements disseminated through media outlets affiliated with the Hamas movement.