A man believed to be a senior commander of the military wing of the Palestinian militant group Hamas has vowed to continue armed resistance to force Israel to leave all Palestinian lands. The statement came in a videotape release Saturday.
The man on the tape identified himself as Mohammed Deif, a bomb maker and military commander, who is at the very top of Israel's list of most wanted men.
He said Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip is a victory for armed resistance, and he rejected calls for Hamas to disarm. The militant leader vowed to continue attacking Israel until the state of Israel is destroyed.
Israeli officials said Saturday that the tape shows the need for the Palestinian Authority to crack down on militants. Senior foreign ministry official Gideon Meir said the videotape risks destroying the atmosphere of goodwill, which has been generated by the Gaza pullout.
Mohammed Deif has survived at least two Israeli attempts to assassinate him. The most recent was an Israeli missile strike in 2002 in which he lost an eye. He has been in hiding since 1992.
He was arrested by Palestinian security forces in May of 2000 in what was seen as a goodwill gesture to the Israelis and Americans, just before the ill-fated Camp David summit. Israel says that he continued his role as a leader of the Hamas military wing, the Izz-e-din al Qassam brigades, even while he was in confinement.
Mohammed Deif was released from detention in April 2001.
Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups say it has been their campaign of suicide bombings and rocket attacks that drove Israel from the Gaza Strip. Israel rejects the claim. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said he reached the decision to dismantle the settlements because the cost of maintaining them was too high, in human lives and in money.