Egyptian soldiers stand guard in front of the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and the southern Gaza Strip.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Egypt does not oppose transferring the remains of a Palestinian engineer – who was slain in Malaysia on Saturday – to the Gaza Strip for burial, PLO Ambassador to Malaysia Anwar al-Agha said on Sunday.
Fadi al-Batsh, 35, was shot dead Saturday morning by two men on a motorcycle in Kuala Lumpur while walking to a mosque to perform prayers, according to Mazlan Lazim, the city’s police chief.
Hamas said on Saturday that Batsh was one of its members; Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said on Sunday that Batsh was involved in developing rocket technology.
Several members of Batsh’s family from the northern Gaza Strip on Saturday accused the Mossad of killing their relative, while Hamas Politburo Chief Ismail Haniyeh said on the same day that the Islamist movement “holds Israel responsible” for his death.
In interviews on Saturday, Muhammad Batsh, Fadi’s father, called for his son’s remains to be returned to Gaza for burial.
“[There] is no opposition from Cairo to transfer the body to Gaza through the Rafah crossing,” ambassador Agha said while visiting Batsh’s remains at a hospital in Kuala Lumpur, according to Al-Quds Al-Arabi
, a London-based Arabic daily. “We communicated with the Egyptian Embassy in Malaysia, and the Egyptian ambassador expressed readiness to make the [necessary] arrangements.”
Earlier on Sunday, Liberman told Army Radio that Israeli authorities asked Egypt not to allow Batsh’s remains to be sent to Gaza.
“We told Egypt our stance that they shouldn’t bring in the body though the Rafah crossing. We are working through the appropriate channels,” he said.
Liberman also dismissed the allegations that the Mossad killed Batsh, suggesting he was slain as part of an internal Palestinian dispute.
“The man was no saint and he didn’t deal with improving infrastructure in Gaza – he was involved in improving rockets’ accuracy... We constantly see a settling of accounts between various factions in the terrorist organizations and I suppose that is what happened in this case.”
Liberman made the remarks after the family of Hadar Goldin, an IDF soldier whose body is believed to be held by Hamas, demanded that the Batsh’s remains not be returned until their son's are returned.
Tzur Goldin, Hadar’s brother, came out against Liberman’s “passiveness” on Twitter.
“We have a terrorist organization here that is setting the language and rules because the prime minister and defense minister have chosen fear and defensiveness,” Goldin wrote. “Liberman should stop talking and start working to fulfill his and [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu’s cabinet decision not to return terrorists’ bodies. [This is] cowardice.”
Education Minister Naftali Bennett, a member of the Security Cabinet, repeated his call to keep Batsh’s body out of Gaza in an interview with Army Radio.
“Just as we know how to prevent weapons from entering Gaza from Egypt, we can do the same here. If we really care about bringing back the missing [soldiers’ bodies], we can certainly pressure Egypt... Imagine if it wasn’t a coffin, and it was missiles. Could we prevent it? The answer is yes,” Bennett said.
Egyptian authorities had not publicly stated whether they would permit the transfer of Batsh’s remains to Gaza as of Sunday evening.
Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said on Saturday that the suspects in the killing, who fled the scene, were believed to be Europeans with links to a foreign intelligence agency, state news agency Bernama reported.
Ynet also reported on Sunday that Batsh was a member of Hamas’s armed wing, the Izzadin Kassam Brigades, and was tasked with procuring missile and drone technology.
Anna Ahronheim and Reuters contributed to this report.