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Angry crowds mourn Hamas chief’s family

Relatives of seven-month-old Ali Deif, the son of Hamas's military commander Mohammed Deif, hold his body in a mosque during his funeral at the Jabalia refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip on August 20, 2014. AFP PHOTO / THOMAS COEX

JABALIYA, Palestine: Several thousand mourners poured onto Gaza’s streets Wednesday to bury the wife and baby son of Hamas’ military chief Mohammed Deif, angrily demanding revenge against Israel and firing shots into the air.

The bodies of 27-year-old Widad and her 7-month-old son Ali were taken from the wife’s family home to a mosque in Jabaliya refugee camp for prayers, then laid to rest in the sand of a cemetery.

They were among at least four Palestinians killed in a deadly airstrike on Gaza City late Tuesday. The bodies of a 48-year-old woman and a 14-year-old boy were also pulled from the rubble Wednesday.

Mourners stooped down to kiss the body of Ali, who was then placed on top of his mother inside the mosque.

Wrapped in green Hamas flags, they were then carried to the cemetery, along with the flag-wrapped bodies of two men killed in an airstrike Wednesday while they were on a motorcycle. Both were presumed Hamas militants.

“Revenge, revenge, revenge!” the crowd shouted as they waved Hamas flags and denounced the killing of the second wife and infant son of Deif, head of the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades.

“We ask Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades to avenge this killing, this massacre,” said a 22-year-old mourner who gave his name as Mohammed.

Grief-stricken, Widad’s father Mustafa Harb Asfura carried his tiny grandson into the mosque and to the cemetery, his body wrapped in a white sheet, exposing his white face with an injury to the eye.

“I’m like all the other people in the Gaza Strip. I am no different from the others who have lost children. This is like a tsunami,” said the angry 56-year-old.

When his university-educated daughter married Deif seven years ago, he feared it was a death sentence.

“My daughter knew she would die a martyr when she decided to marry Mohammed Deif. Every moment since then I’ve been expecting to hear that she has died,” he said.

Asfura said he had only seen his son-in-law once, when the couple married. After that, he didn’t even know where his daughter was living, such is the secrecy that surrounds Deif, who is determined to avoid detection by Israel.

Widad and Deif had two daughters and a son together. She also had two sons from a first marriage, the family said. It was not clear where the couple’s two girls were at the time of the strike.

Hundreds of people crowded into the mosque for the funeral prayers, but there was no sign of any officials of the Islamist movement Hamas, which controls Gaza.

A small group of women also entered the mosque to attend the prayers. They stayed in a separate room, sobbing in grief.

Addressing the mourners, a young man passed on the condolences of the Qassam Brigades, and prayers were read for the two men who died when a rocket hit their motorcycle in the northern town of Beit Lahiya.

Shortly after the funeral, a source close to the Islamist militant movement said that Deif was alive and still calling the shots in the ongoing war with Israel in and around Gaza.

“The head of the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades Abu Khaled is still alive and leading the military operation,” the source told AFP, using Deif’s nom-de-guerre.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said Israelis would not be safe until Deif “decides so.”

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on August 21, 2014, on page 9.

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Summary

Several thousand mourners poured onto Gaza's streets Wednesday to bury the wife and baby son of Hamas' military chief Mohammed Deif, angrily demanding revenge against Israel and firing shots into the air.

The bodies of 27-year-old Widad and her 7-month-old son Ali were taken from the wife's family home to a mosque in Jabaliya refugee camp for prayers, then laid to rest in the sand of a cemetery.

Both were presumed Hamas militants.

"Revenge, revenge, revenge!" the crowd shouted as they waved Hamas flags and denounced the killing of the second wife and infant son of Deif, head of the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades.

Widad and Deif had two daughters and a son together. She also had two sons from a first marriage, the family said.


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