Hamas on Wednesday announced that one of its senior members was assassinated in Damascus, and quickly blamed Israel for the killing.
The announcement, posted on the terrorist group's official website said it was unknown who killed Kamal Ranaja, also known as Nizzar Abu Mujhad. However, a senior Hamas official later told AFP, "According to our information, Mossad was behind the assassination."
The statement on Hamas's website added that Ranaja died "in the service of his cause and his people," vowing that his blood would "not be wasted."
The senior Hamas official said that Ranaja was killed in his home in a suburb of Damascus, and implicated "a group of people" for the murder. He identified Ranaja as a former deputy of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, the Hamas operative assassinated in Dubai in 2010.
A Hamas source in Gaza said "there were marks of torture" on Ranaja's body. The organization, which rules the Gaza Strip, did not disclose his role in the movement but said he "spent his life working for the sake of God" within its ranks.
Foreign media has reported that Israeli agents were behind the killing of al-Mabhouh in his Dubai hotel room.
In February 2008, senior Hezbollah military commander Imad Mughniyeh was killed by a bomb in his car in the Syrian capital, an attack the terror group blamed on Israel.
Mughniyeh was a Lebanese national who climbed the ranks of the Palestinian Fatah movement's elite Force 17 military force before moving to the Lebanese Shi'ite organization.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Thursday morning commented on the Ranaja hit, saying "it is certainly possible" that actors other than Israel were after the Hamas operative Kamal Ranaja.
He was "not a saint," Barak said, refusing to further discuss the assassination in an interview with Army Radio.
Reuters contributed to this report
Jerusalem Post Annual Conference. Buy it now, Special offer. Come meet Israel's top leaders