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Hamas leader survived assassination plot last summer, say Israelis

Israeli analysts say confirmation of Mohammad Deif's survival was kept from the public until after elections
The Gaza City where Deif was believed to be staying was levelled in attack last August that killed his wife and son (AFP)

The head of Hamas’s armed wing survived an assassination attempt during last summer’s war, official Israeli radio reported on Wednesday.

Mohammed Deif, head of the Qassam Brigades, was targeted by an Israeli strike on his home in the Gaza Strip last August.

Deif’s wife and baby son were killed in an attack that levelled a six-storey house in Gaza City. A woman and a teenager were also killed.

Thousands of people took to the streets of Gaza City to mourn those who were killed in the strike.

In the wake of the attack, Hamas leaders claimed that Deif was alive, and was still calling the shots during the ongoing war.

Israeli officials have never publicly commented on the outcome of the strike, which targeted the man at the top of their hit-list.

However, official Israeli radio on Wednesday quoted well-placed military sources as saying that Deif was alive and well, and was seeking to procure weapons and funding for Hamas.

Deif is attempting to engineer a rapprochement between Palestinian resistance groups and Iran in order to secure more funding, a source said on the radio.

Deif is considered among Israel’s most high-profile foes, and is accused of being behind dozens of armed attacks against the country.

The 49-year-old has reportedly been left scarred by a string of earlier Israeli assassination attempts – Israeli media have claimed that he is wheelchair-bound, and has lost an eye and several limbs in strikes against him.

Hamas, however, has never commented on his health, saying instead that he remains in charge of the Qassam Brigades’ military strategy.

Eight months after the latest assassination attempt on his life, analysts speculate that its revelation may have been suppressed until after the recent Israeli election, which was won by incumbent Benjamin Netanyahu.

Columnist and military analyst Ben Caspit, writing in Israeli daily Maariv, said that military leaders had informed the Israeli’s government of Deif’s survival in February, as Netanyahu was gearing up to fight a snap re-election campaign.