Hamas Accuses Israel in Senior Militant's Death, Vows Revenge

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Members of Hamas' armed wing take part in the funeral of Mazen Fuqaha in Gaza City, March 25, 2017.
Members of Hamas' armed wing take part in the funeral of Mazen Fuqaha in Gaza City, March 25, 2017.Credit: MOHAMMED SALEM/REUTERS

Hamas has accused the Mossad of assassinating a senior militant and vowed to avenge his death.

A statement by Gaza's Interior Ministry said Mazen Fuqaha was gunned down in the southern Gaza City neighborhood of Tel al-Hawa on Friday. The gunmen were equipped with silencers, the statement said. According to Gaza police, Fuqaha was shot four times in the head. 

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Thousands attended Fuqaha's funeral on Saturday, chanting "revenge, revenge." Senior Hamas figures, including the organization's leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, and his predecessor Ismail Haniyeh, were in attendance as well. Haniyeh said that Hamas will "carry on Fuqaha's legacy of struggle" against Israel.  

The Gaza prosecution called the shooting an assassination that "clearly bears Mossad's fingerprints."

Khalil al-Hayya, Hamas' deputy leader in Gaza, also blamed Fuqaha's death on Israel, saying that "the released prisoner Fuqaha didn't have enemies, and Israel is the only beneficiary in his assassination. The Al-Qassam Brigades could respond accordingly, and Israel will bear the responsibility."

Senior Hamas figure Mushir al Masri echoed the accusations, saying that "signs indicate that Mossad is behind the assassination. The operation is similar to pervious hits on the forces of the resistance."

The Al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas' military wing, released a statement vowing to "respond to the assassination in a manner that befits his position," as other leaders in the organization and the Islamic Jihad called for revenge.

Fuqaha was a prominent member of Hamas’ military wing in the northern West Bank, which took part of suicide attacks in which hundreds of Israelis were killed during the second intifada, between 2000-2005.

Fuqaha was sentenced to life in prison and an additional 50 years for planning a suicide bombing on a bus in northern Israel in 2002, where nine Israelis were killed. But in 2011, Fuqaha was released as part of a prisoner exchange deal to free Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

Fuqaha, originally from the village of Tubas in the northern West Bank, 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.

Khader Adnan, a senior figure in the Islamic Jihad in the West Bank, warned that Fuqaha's "assassination is a blatant violation of the cease-fire." 

Hamas spokesman Husam Badran said that "Fuqaha has already been marked in the Israeli media as a target for an assassination on the pretext that he reclaimed his position within Hamas' military wing and tried to influence events in the West Bank."

Fuqaha's family quoted the militant as saying he wanted to die a martyr. Fuqaha's father said that Israeli intelligence officers had arrived at the family's home in Tubas three times in the past in an effort to pressure the militant to stop operations against Israel, "but we told him we have no control over him."