GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip, AP -The militant group Hamas on Saturday released a rare videotape of a man it said is the shadowy bombmaker who has eluded Israeli forces for more than a decade.
The man, identifying himself as fugitive bombmaker Mohammed Deif, described Israel”s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip as a victory for armed resistance, rejected calls for his group to disarm, and vowed to continue attacks on Israel until the Jewish state is erased from the map.
"You are leaving Gaza today in shame," he said in comments directed toward Israel. "Today you are leaving hell. But we promise you that tomorrow all Palestine will be hell for you, God willing."
The video was likely to cause a stir, fueling opposition complaints that the pullout is a surrender to Palestinian violence.
The tape was released in the middle of the night on the Jewish sabbath, and Israeli officials could not immediately be reached for reaction.
Deif, widely believed to be at the top of Israel”s most-wanted list, is responsible for the deaths of dozens of Israelis in suicide bombings.
In the video, Deif sat in a chair, wearing a dark shirt and waving his hand as he spoke in a deep voice.
There was no way to positively identify the figure as Deif because a dark shadow covered his face. Also, the only known photos of him were taken in the 1980s. But the high quality of the video, which as stamped with the logo of the Hamas military wing, as well as the similarity of the voice to his previous recordings indicated the tape was authentic.
In addition, Hamas militants delivered the tape to The Associated Press office in Gaza City, and had said in recent days that a video of Deif would soon be released. Hamas also posted a transcript of his comments on its Web site.
In the speech, Deif praised the hundreds of militants who have died in attacks against Israel.
"Without this jihad and this steadfastness, we did not achieve the liberation of the Gaza Strip," he said.
Israel this week completed the removal of all 21 settlements in Gaza. It plans on removing its military presence in the area next month.