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October 2, 2014 4:39 pm

IDF Chief of Staff on Secretive Hamas Rocket Chief: ‘He’s Out There Somewhere’ (VIDEO)

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IDF CoS, Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz. Photo: IDF

IDF CoS, Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz. Photo: IDF.

In a special interview for the Yom Kippur weekend edition of Israel’s Makor Rishon newspaper, IDF Chief of Staff, Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz on Thursday addressed the fate of Hamas mastermind Mohammed Deif – who may have been killed in an air strike during Operation Protective Edge in Gaza.

Israeli officials said that a massive bomb dropped on a building in Gaza City’s Sajayah neighborhood on August 19 had targeted Deif.

Israel’s Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on September 7th weighed in on discussions over whether Deif was killed, saying, “Until now we have not heard his voice; [so] there is room for optimism.”

Hamas, however, quickly denied his demise, although it admitted that the strike killed Deif’s wife and son.

“Mohammed Deif is safe and was not not hurt in the Israeli strike,” Hamas Izzadin Al-Quassam Brigades spokesman Abu Obadiah said.

Gantz, mused, “I think he’s still with us; he’s out there somewhere,” referring to Deif, who has been the target of no less than five IDF assassination attempts, since taking over the role in 2002 — after the IDF killed his predecessor, Salah Shehade. “I think he’s still alive out there,” Gantz said.

IDF CoS, Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz. Photo: Dave Bender

IDF CoS, Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz. Photo: Dave Bender.

When asked if, “when the prime and defense ministers looked him in the eyes, they saw more of a will to destroy Hamas, or, alternatively, a will to end the fighting,” Gantz said that “the issue is a lot more serious than the look in the eyes of the chief of staff.

“The PM, DM, and I held days of talks, intensive talks; on the meaning of the word, ‘to kill off [Hamas, as a controlling entity]’; on the meaning of the word ‘decisive,’ and which missions were critical to fulfill,” Gantz recalled.

“This triangle worked well, all in all, but not without arguments, and not without differing opinions.”

On a related note, a few months before he passes the throne to his successor, Gantz said he was satisfied with his conduct during Operation Protective Edge, but very concerned about the draft of the 2015 defense budget. “If there are no resources, people will not stay in the army,” he warned.

On another issue, Gantz said he was not in the loop on appointing his successor.

“I’m not part of this at all,” Gantz stressed.

“We have a defense minister. He knows who the candidates are, and is implementing the process. If he wants to ask me, then he will ask me – but I don’t think he needs to ask me. He’s directly familiar with the candidates, and the last thing he needs is my recommendation,” Gantz said.

Watch a video compilation of IAF air strikes in Gaza during the 50 days of conflict:

[iframe width=”640″ height=”360″ src=”//www.youtube.com/embed/BLMynOHtzlY?list=UUawNWlihdgaycQpO3zi-jYg” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen>]

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