Ismail Haniyeh, the head of Hamas' politburo, accused Israel of "assassinating its scientists" in an attempt to destroy the "development and progress" of the Palestinian nation. He made the comments in a reference to the killing of a Hamas-linked engineer in Malaysia on Saturday morning, which was attributed to the Mossad by the victim's family and Palestinian media.
Fadi al-Batash, 35, was killed at the entrance to a mosque in the capital Kuala Lumpur on Saturday morning, after which Malaysia said “foreign agents” might be behind the act.
"We asked the government of Malaysia to open a quick investigation to ascertain the circumstances of the assassination," Haniyeh said, adding that "the Palestinian people have an open account with Israel that shifts the war abroad."
He spoke at the memorial tent for Batash and said the attack's timing was "not a coincidence", but then did not explain what he meant. The Hamas leader also sent a delegation to Malaysia, most likely comprised of Hamas' representatives abroad, saying they would support the investigations "both politically and in terms of security," while also liaising with local police and government.
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Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said “There may be a connection to foreign secret services,” specifying that the two men who allegedly killed al-Batash were white. The victim's family and Palestinians blamed Israel's Mossad for the assassination.
According to Palestinian news websites, Batash, 35, was ambushed at the entrance to a mosque and shot at close range by two unidentified motorcyclists. Palestinian sources in Malaysia quoted the police chief as saying the unidentified assailants waited about 20 minutes for Batash outside the mosque. They shot more than 10 bullets at Batash. He sustained wounds to the head and upper body. The shooters fled the scene. Hamas swiftly announced that the Palestinian engineer was a member of the organization.
Batash's family, as well as an Islamic Jihad senior leader, Khaled al-Batash, accused Mossad of being behind the assassination, reported Palestinian news sources. They demanded that "Malaysian authorities conduct a comprehensive and rapid investigation to prevent the escape of the assassins." The family said that Batash was supposed to fly to Turkey on Sunday for a science conference on energy. He is married and has three children.
According to the news agency SPA, which is affiliated with Hamas, Batash, a former resident of Jabalya in the northern Gaza Strip, worked in Malaysia in the past years as a lecturer at a private university and was the imam of a mosque in the city. Batash also involved with Islamic organizations, including MyCARE.
Batash was involved in energy field work and was a revered engineer in electrical engineering and energy production.
In December, aviation engineer and former Tunisair pilot Mohammed Zawahri was assassinated by highly skilled assassins in Sfax, Tunisia, reported local news outlets. Tunisian journalist Burhan Basis claimed on his Facebook page that the Mossad was behind the assassination.
According to Basis, Zawahri lived in several countries over the years and maintained close ties with Hamas. He added that Zawahri's work on drones was what led the Mossad to pursue him.
In 2015, the Shin Bet security service revealed that Hamas was training Palestinian students in Malaysia. After their training, the operatives are sent to set up military networks in the West Bank, act as messengers between the territories and foreign countries, and carry out secret transfers of funds to meet Hamas’ needs.