Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman brushed off Hamas’ claims on Sunday that Israel was behind the death of its top commander Mazen Fuqaha, saying that the Palestinian militant group is "known for internal assassinations."
"We have no quarrel with Hamas, they can do what they want," Lieberman said during a tour of the Israeli border community of Sderot, adding that Israel wasn't looking for "adventures" in the coastal enclave.
Gaza’s prosecution has accused Israel's espionage agency of assassinating Fuqaha, saying the murder "clearly bears Mossad's fingerprints."
Speaking at a memorial service held for Fuqaha in Gaza, Hamas leader Khaled Meshal threatened to retaliate against Israel. "This is a great challenge for us that joins the open account between us and [Israel]," he said, adding that if Israel is looking to change the rules of the game, "then we accept it."
In response, Hamas repeated its accusation that Israel was behind the assassination. "Israeli remarks, including Lieberman's comments today, testify as to the pressure Israel is under," Hamas spokesman Abu Obeida said.
Fuqaha, a senior member of Hamas’ military wing, was gunned down in the southern Gaza City neighborhood of Tel al-Hawa more than a week ago. The gunmen were equipped with silencers, a statement by Gaza's Interior Ministry said. According to Gaza police, Fuqaha was shot four times in the head.
The commander was sentenced to life in prison and an additional 50 years for planning a suicide bombing on a bus in northern Israel in 2002, which killed nine Israelis. But in 2011, Fuqaha was released as part of a prisoner exchange deal to free Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.
Originally from the village of Tubas in the northern West Bank, Fuqaha was exiled at Israel’s demand to Gaza. He was considered a senior member of Hamas’ West Bank command, which gave orders and funds to West bank cells.
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