The assassination of a top Hamas militant, Mazen Fuqaha, in March was an inside job within the movement, Israel's Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman told the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper. The interview was published on Monday.
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Internal assassinations are characteristic of terror groups, Lieberman said. “We can say with certainty that it was an internal killing,” the minister said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if during the Iranian election on May 19, somebody assassinates the president of Iran, Hassan Rohani.”
Until now, Lieberman has been muffled on the subject of Fuqaha’s assassination, which Hamas has blamed on Israel, claiming that the “fingerprints are clearly Mossad’s." Israel has ignored the accusations against it.
Hamas has threatened to take revenge. A video posted online last month by a news site linked to the terrorist group in Gaza showed a camouflaged sniper peering through a scope at prominent Israeli officials, including Lieberman, followed by the message in Hebrew and Arabic, "We will act in kind."
Lieberman's previous muted comment on the subject was made last week during a tour of Sderot, a town near Gaza that has frequently been targeted by rocket attacks. There, Lieberman said, “We have no beef with Hamas. Let them do what they like. We will do what we have to do, and let them look in their turf. Hamas is known for internal killings, all kinds of closing accounts.”
Fuqaha, a senior member of Hamas’ military wing, was gunned down on March 24 in the southern Gaza City neighborhood of Tel al-Hawa, according to the Gaza foreign ministry. The gunmen were equipped with silencers, the ministry's statement said at the time.
Israel sentenced Fuqaha 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.
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.