Hamas Engineer 'Negotiated Arms Deals With North Korea, Assassinated by Mossad' in Malaysia

Report in The New York Times cites intelligence officials saying Batsh was killed as part of Mossad attempt to stop Hamas operations overseas, reveals ties to North Korea

A kid holds a poster of Palestinian Fadi al-Batsh portrait at a mosque in Selayang, on the outskirt of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, April 25, 2018.
Sadiq Asyraf/AP

Fadi al-Batsh, the Hamas engineer gunned down in Malaysia last week, was reportedly involved in talks with North Korea on arms intended for Gaza, The New York Times reported Thursday.

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According to the report, Batsh was killed as part of an alleged operation by Israel's Mossad spy agency to take out Hamas scientists and engineers training abroad to gather "know-how and weaponry to fight Israel."

"That claim has been confirmed by Middle Eastern intelligence officials," The New York Times reported, claiming the "broader operation" was ordered by the Mossad chief, Yossi Cohen.

Detail from graphic showing Hamas operations worldwide and attempts to stop them
Haaretz

Regarding North Korea, the joint report, by Israeli journalist Ronen Bergman and Hannah Beech, the paper's Southeast Asia reporter, claimed that "Western and Middle Eastern intelligence officials said that Batsh may have been involved in negotiating North Korean arms deals through Malaysia."

Mossad has also been particularly interested in Hamas’s progress in unmanned aerial and underwater vehicles, officials told The Times, which could be used to attack Israeli targets more effectively than Hamas's rockets used during its last wars with Israel.

>> From Malaysia to Tunisia: Troubles in Gaza are pushing Hamas to overseas operations <<

Batsh, who co-wrote a 2013 paper on drone applications, was sent to Malaysia to research and acquire weapon systems and drones for Hamas, intelligence officials said.

The report said that Egypt recently captured a shipment of "communications components used for guided munitions destined for Gaza" from North Korea. It was also reported that according to an intelligence official, Batsh was involved in negotiating that deal.

The Times also cited a UN report claiming that Pyongyang had set up a shell company to circumnavigate sanctions and conduct sales of "military-grade communication systems" through Kuala Lumpur.

This image released by Royal Malaysia Police shows a suspect in the killing of a Hamas engineer in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, April 25, 2018.
/AP

The two men suspected of killing Batsh in Kuala Lumpur were still in the country, Malaysian police said on Wednesday, as they released a fresh image of one of the men. Hamas have accused Mossad of assassinating Batsh, who they say was a member of their group. 

Two men on a high-powered motorcycle fired at least 14 shots at Batsh, an engineering lecturer, outside his apartment building on Saturday, killing him on the spot.

A Kawasaki motorcycle was found abandoned near a lake about nine minutes from the scene, from which police were able to trace a photo of one of the suspects, Inspector-General of Police Mohamad Fuzi Harun told reporters.

The suspects were believed to have entered Malaysia sometime in late January, but it was not known what nationalities they were or where they had traveled from, said Mohamad Fuzi.

“We believe the suspects are still in the country,” he said.

>> From Malaysia to Tunisia: Troubles in Gaza Are Pushing Hamas to Overseas Operations >>

Authorities had originally released computer-generated photographs of the suspects, who witnesses described as well-built and light-skinned, possibly Middle Eastern or European.

A new photo of one of the suspects shows a light-skinned man with dark, wavy hair and a prominent goatee.

Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said on Saturday the suspects were believed to be Europeans with links to a foreign intelligence agency.

Speaking on Israeli radio on Sunday, Defense Ministry Avigdor Lieberman said of the allegations: "We heard about this on the news. There’s a tradition at this point among terrorist organizations of blaming Israel for every settling of accounts.”

Mohamad Fuzi said the killing appeared “very professionally done”, but declined to comment on reports it was a Mossad operation or that it was carried out by trained assassins.

Batsh was a lecturer at Universiti Kuala Lumpur, specializing in power engineering, according to the university. According to the Hamas affiliated news agency SPA, Batsh also involved with Islamic organizations, including MyCARE.

His funeral ceremony is currently taking place in Selayang, on the outskirt of Kuala Lumpur. Batsh’s body will be returned to Gaza via Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, and Cairo, Egypt on Wednesday evening, after the funeral procession in Kuala Lumpur, Palestine’s ambassador to Malaysia, Anwar Al Agha, told Reuters.

Mossad has been accused of several high-profile killings involving Palestinians around the world, although Israel has consistently denied the accusations.

Numbered markers are seen on a bullet-riddled wall at the scene where Palestinian scientist Fadi Mohammad al-Batsh was gunned down April 21 in what his family claim was an assassination by Israel's Mossad spy agency, in Kuala Lumpur on April 22, 2018.
MOHD RASFAN/AFP