Who is Hamas’ ‘Phantom’?

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Members of the al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas' armed wing. (Photo: AFP)

By: Qassem Qassem

Published Thursday, July 31, 2014

Mohammed al-Daif was the guest of honor on Tuesday at people’s homes in Gaza and the surrounding areas. The “Phantom,” as the Israeli media calls him, appeared in his calm voice and confident tone to confirm in a less-than-four-minute audio recording that “there will be no ceasefire unless the aggression is stopped and the siege is lifted.”

His last audio recording was towards the end of al-Furqan Battle or Operation Cast Lead as it was named by Hamas and Israel respectively in 2008. At the time, Hamas’ General said the Resistance will emerge from this battle victorious and stronger.

But who is Daif?

His real name is Mohammed Diab Ibrahim al-Masri, aka Mohammed al-Daif. He was born in the city of Khan Younis in southern Gaza in 1965 to a poor family and his father was an upholsterer by trade. His rank is general commander of the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’ military wing. He is also known as Abu Khaled, or the Phantom, or Hamas’ General.

Daif is one al-Qassam Brigades’ hawks. He does not believe in negotiations and does not think peace talks will lead to a free Palestine. For him, resistance is the answer. He hates the Arab regimes as he knows that, they too, will not liberate Palestine. The man believes in forging an alliance with Iran and Hezbollah in Lebanon and with everyone who wants to provide the Resistance in Palestine with arms. He does not deny Iran’s role in arming al-Qassam Brigades. He is reported to have said, this is the “duty of the Muslim nation.”

Hamas’ general has survived four assassination attempts, one of them cost him an eye and burns to his face and made him partially paralyzed. Daif was the brains behind previous wars with the Israeli occupation that al-Qassem Brigades fought. In calmer times, the Phantom worked on strengthening the Resistance by arming and training it.

Daif reappeared after an absence of six years through a short audio recording and addressed the Palestinian people, Israel and whoever is negotiating for a ceasefire, be it the Palestinian Authority, Egypt or even the political bureau of his own organization.

He emphasized the conditions of the Resistance, affirming once again that the war will go on until the siege on Gaza is lifted. He also pointed out that the Resistance chose to “confront and kill Israel’s military and elite soldiers rather than attack civilians in neighboring villages.”

With this statement, Daif outlined a new phase of operations by al-Qassam Brigades, signaling that they will not rely on suicide operations as was the case in 1996 when he himself planned suicide operations in retaliation for the assassination of Yahya Ayyash (leader of al-Qassam Brigades in the West Bank).

One of Abu Khaled’s friends is Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahhar who looked after him personally when his car was targeted. And one of the closest people to him was the martyr Ahmed al-Jaabari, Daif’s deputy and right hand man.

No one knows what Daif looks like. There have been no recent pictures of him. Daif has purposefully avoided pictures because of his disfigurations and to prevent Israel from using them against supporters of the Resistance. Those who know him say he “appears among people every now and then. He is not completely paralyzed, he can stand and walk but for short distances.” As for his private life, it is a complete mystery, even for those inside Hamas. Sources within the organization say: “It is not known whether Abu Khaled is married or not.”

Israel has always sought to assassinate the Phantom who has haunted them for years. Yesterday, Israeli finance minister and chairman of the There is a Future political party, Yair Lapid, vowed to assassinate Daif. According to the Israeli news website, The Times of Israel, Lapid said: “Daif has been hiding underground in Gaza for weeks and that’s where he will stay,” adding: “that’s because he’s a dead man, sooner or later we will find him and assassinate him.”

And thus, the story of Daif will remain a secret for now. We will not know the man that has struck fear in the heart of Israel except when he is martyred. The leaders of the Resistance remain a mystery, their real faces and pictures unknown, until the moment of their martyrdom.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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