Israel’s Foreign Minister: ‘Room For Optimism’ on Reports of Hamas Military Chief Deif’s Death in Air Strike
Israel’s Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Sunday weighed in on discussion over whether Hamas military chief Muhammad Deif was killed in an Israeli air strike in August, saying, “Until now we have not heard his voice; there is room for optimism,” according to Israel Radio.
During Operation Protective Edge, Israeli officials said that a massive bomb dropped on a building in Gaza City’s Sajayah neighborhood on August 19 had targeted Deif. Hamas quickly denied that he was dead, although it admitted that the strike killed Deif’s wife and son.
Deif has not been heard from or seen since the bombing, although he has rarely been seen in public in recent years due to repeated Israeli assassination attempts.
Hamas, Lieberman also said, “is no less dangerous that ISIS,” and pointed to numerous intra-Palestinian public summary executions carried out during the 50-day operation to halt rocket fire and attack tunnels against Israel.
Israeli officials said on Sunday that Hamas has resumed trying to build and smuggle in rockets and other arms, as well as beginning to reconstruct destroyed tunnels running beneath Israeli territory, according to Israel’s NRG News.
The FM told political correspondents that continued Hamas rule in the coastal enclave was unacceptable, despite a recent Palestinian poll showing overwhelming support for the Islamist terror group among Palestinians, both in Gaza and the West Bank.
According to the results, “if presidential elections were to take place today, [Hamas chief] Ismail Haniyeh would easily win over [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud] Abbas and Hamas would win the largest percentage of the popular vote in parliamentary elections.”
Lieberman, who also chairs the Israel Beiteinu faction in the government, cautioned of the fast-growing influence of ISIS, and fighting across a wide arc of neighboring states, including along the border with Syria in the Golan Heights.
“The Middle East is going through an upheaval and a whole new reality,” Lieberman said.
“Our conflict is not with the Palestinians. It is with the Arab world, the Palestinians and Israeli Arabs. We need to address all three of these elements,” he concluded.