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, who was identified as fugitive bombmaker Mohammed Deif (search), 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.
Deif, widely believed to be at the top of Israel's most-wanted list, is responsible for the deaths of dozens of Israelis in has it that he is extremely self-reliant and can stay in the same hiding place for months on his own. He is so shadowy that the most recent photograph of him is from the 1980s, though he has periodically issued crackly, tape-recorded statements.
In the video, the man identified as Deif sat in a chair, wearing a dark shirt and waving his hand as he spoke in a deep voice.
A dark shadow covered his face, but the video was of high quality. It was stamped with the logo of the Hamas (search) military wing. Hamas militants delivered the tape to The Associated Press, apparently making good on recent statement that a tape of Deif would be released.
In the speech, the figure praised the hundreds of militants who have died in attacks against Israel, and said the violence had driven Israel out of the Gaza Strip (search).
"Without this jihad and this steadfastness, we did not achieve the liberation of the Gaza Strip," he said.
In messages to Palestinians living in the West Bank and Arabs living inside Israel, he vowed to continue the group's violent struggle until it expels Israel from the West Bank and ultimately eliminates Israel altogether.
"We will not hesitate, and we will not rest until we liberate our holy land fully," he said.