(One of the only three pictures captured of Deif ever. Credit: AFP File)

As Israel witnessed the horrifying attack on October 7th, it was Mohammed Deif who cast a dark shadow over the nation. Known as the chief of Izz el-Deen al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, Deif played a central role in planning and executing this devastating event. Alongside Hamas leader Yehya Sinwar, he made the fateful decision to launch the attack, resulting in over 1,000 Hamas gunmen crossing into Israeli borders. The consequences were dire, with casualties among both civilians and soldiers, marking this as the most severe assault since the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

"There are two brains, but there is one mastermind," according to an unnamed source cited by Reuters. Mohammed Deif, known for his extreme secrecy and rare public appearances, addressed Gazans as the attack began, emphasizing their determination to end the ongoing crisis. He conveyed Hamas's repeated demands for Israel to halt its actions against Palestinians and lift the siege. Remarkably, Deif managed the mission with such confidentiality that even Iran, while aware of Hamas's plans, had limited information regarding the operation's timing and specifics.

(Palestinians gathered for the funeral of Mohammed Deif's wife and their infant son, Ali, who
tragically lost their lives in Israeli airstrikes in the Gaza Strip in 2014. Credits: Reuters)

Known as 'The Man with Nine Lives,' Mohammed Diab Ibrahim al Masri, or Mohammed Deif, hails from Khan Yunis refugee camp in southern Gaza, born in the 1960s. His early life remains shrouded in mystery, but he pursued a science education at the Islamic University of Gaza. Deif gained notoriety for orchestrating a series of suicide bombings in the mid-1990s after the signing of the Oslo Accords, making him Israel's most-wanted individual since 1995. Remarkably, Deif has miraculously survived numerous assassination attempts, despite being partially paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair. He lost one of his legs, an arm and also an eye in those attacks. As per the reports, Deif His uncanny ability to evade death has earned him the moniker 'The Cat with Nine Lives.' In a 2014 Israeli airstrike targeting Deif, his wife and two children tragically lost their lives.

(Second of the only three known pictures of Deif)

"Deif" in Arabic translates to "The Guest" is the nickname given to him for his practice of seeking refuge with different sympathizers each night to avoid detection by the Israeli Intelligence. This discreet lifestyle became essential as he rose in importance within Hamas, ultimately becoming the head of the Izz el-Deen al-Qassam Brigades in 2002.

Deif played a pivotal role in implementing strategies gleaned from the second intifada and was the mastermind behind the creation of underground tunnels in Gaza. Despite being designated an international terrorist by the United States in 2015, Deif has maintained a decades-long struggle against Israel. His enduring presence in this volatile field is noteworthy, defying the odds stacked against individuals in such circumstances. Jacob Eriksson, a specialist in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at the University of York, remarked on Deif's remarkable resilience, considering him a lasting enigma in Israel's history of targeting key figures.

The recent attack has undeniably solidified his legendary status and made him a hero among Palestinians. "With this operation, arguably the most successful in the history of Palestinian resistance, his legacy is etched in history. Even if he were to falter now or if Israel were to eliminate him, his legacy will endure," emphasized Omri Brinner, an Israel and Middle East analyst at the International Team for the Study of Security Verona, speaking to France 24.

Israel's response seems to reflect this sentiment. According to The Times of Israel, an IDF airstrike targeted the home of Mohammad Deif's relatives, resulting in the tragic loss of his brother, his son, and his brother's granddaughter.