Palestinian militants of the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, the Hamas' armed wing, take part in a rally in Gaza City.
(photo credit: MAHMUD HAMS / AFP)
Hamas accused Israel of assassinating Mazen Fuqaha, a senior leader of its armed wing, on Friday.
“Hamas and its fighting brigades place the full responsibility for this reprehensible crime on the Israeli occupation and its collaborators,” the Islamist movement said in an official statement.
Fuqaha, a senior activist in the Izzadin Kassam Brigades, was killed in front of his home in Gaza City’s southern Tel al-Hawa neighborhood late on Friday night.
“The martyr Mazen Fuqaha was shot in the head, leading to his death,” Hamas Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qidra said on Twitter.
The parties behind the assassination are unknown, the Hamas Interior Ministry said in a statement, adding that the local security services have opened an investigation.
Israeli officials have not commented on the incident.
An Israeli court sentenced Fuqaha to life plus 50 years in prison for planning a suicide bombing on a bus at the Meron junction near Safed in August 2002 that killed nine people and wounded 38 others. Nonetheless, Israel released Fuqaha in 2011 as a part of the Gilad Schalit prisoner swap, but barred him from returning to the West Bank.
Since his release, Fuqaha relocated to the Gaza Strip, where he continued to fill a key role in the Kassam Brigades.
Hamas threatened retaliation for Fuqaha’s death. “The occupation knows that the blood of those struggling in the way of God will not be wasted,” the movement said.
“Hamas knows how to deal with these crimes.”
The Kassam Brigades also said it would exact revenge for the killing. “We will make the enemy regret the day that he thought he could begin [to carry out assassinations],” the brigades said in a statement.
“We swear to God, our Muslim nation and our people, that the enemy will pay a price for this crime that is equal in size to the assassination of our martyr leader. He who plays with fire will be burned by it.”
Fuqaha, who was born and raised in Tubas, northeast of Nablus, was a senior leader of the Kassam Brigades in the West Bank, which carried out a number of suicide bombing attacks against Israelis during the second intifada.
On Saturday, thousands turned out for Fuqaha’s funeral in Jabalya in the northern Gaza Strip, where the top brass of Hamas gave fiery eulogies.
“We will preserve [his] blood, carry [out his] will, and continue, and continue the battle until the liberation of Jerusalem,” Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said.
Haniyeh, as well as Hamas’s newly elected Gaza chief Yahiya Sinwar, Politburo member Rouhi Mushtaha, Deputy Gaza chief Khalil al-Hayya and many other top Hamas officials attended the funeral.
Speaking at the Omari Mosque in Jabalya, Hayya said the Kassam Brigades “will be able, with the permission of God, to respond to the crime of assassinating Mazen Fuqaha.”
A separate procession took place in Tubas, where hundreds marched to Fuqaha’s parents’ home.