By Adam Abrams/JNS.org
Unidentified assailants gunned down Hamas terrorist Mazen Faqha outside his home in the Gaza Strip Friday, fleeing the scene without leaving a trace. Soon after the assassination, members of the terrorist’s family, key Hamas figures and other anti-Israel terror groups were quick to blame the Jewish state.
Faqha, a commander in the Palestinian terror group’s Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, was reportedly shot in the head four times with a handgun equipped with a silencer. Hamas’s Health Ministry said on Twitter, “The martyr Mazen Faqha was shot in the head, leading to his death.”
Footage aired by Arab media contradicted these reports and showed that Faqha had been shot in the torso, not the head.
Hamas’s international spokesman, Husam Badran, tweeted that “the [Israeli] occupation is responsible for this assassination. [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu knows this will not pass quietly.” Ismail Jaber, Hamas’s attorney general, said the assassination “has the clear marks of Mossad,” Israel’s intelligence agency.
The terrorist’s father also accused Israel of coordinating his son’s killing, saying in a broadcast on a Hamas-run TV station, “Israeli intelligence officers came to our house many times and gave us messages that Mazen would be liquidated if he continued with his actions.”
The Lebanese terror organization Hezbollah similarly weighed in Saturday, releasing a statement saying that the assassination was covered with “Zionist fingerprints.”
Despite its accusations, Hamas has yet to present any evidence proving Israel’s involvement in the assassination, and Israel has not claimed responsibility.
“Assuming that the killing was not a result of inner fighting within Hamas or with Salafist elements in the Gaza Strip, the assassination of Mazen Faqua was another incident in the long struggle against Palestinian terrorism. It does not represent a change of policy in Israel. He was involved in preparing terror operations from the West Bank, and that made him a legitimate target for targeted killing,” Shlomo Brom—head of the Program on Israeli-Palestinian Relations at the Tel Aviv-based Institute for National Security Studies, and former director of the Strategic Planning Division in the Planning Branch of the IDF General Staff—told JNS.org.
Faqha was responsible for masterminding terror attacks throughout Judea and Samaria. He was arrested by Israel in 2002 in his hometown of Tubas, northeast of Nablus, for helping to plan suicide bombings during the second Palestinian intifada. Following his arrest, Faqha in 2003 received nine life sentences in prison for his role in coordinating a suicide bombing that killed nine people on a bus near the Israeli city of Safed.
Faqha was released from prison and deported to Gaza as part of the controversial 2011 Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange deal with Hamas. After his release, Faqha resumed his terror activities and founded Hamas’s West Bank headquarters, which operated under the supervision of exiled Hamas terrorist Saleh al-Arouri—who claimed responsibility for the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers in 2014, an episode that ignited a 50-day war between Hamas and Israel.
In addition to al-Arouri, Abd al-Rahman Ghanimat—another Hamas terrorist who was released in the Shalit deal—collaborated with Faqha on running Hamas’s West Bank headquarters.
Hamas held a massive funeral procession for Faqha in Gaza. Supporters of the slain terrorist chanted “revenge, revenge” as the terrorist’s body was paraded through the streets. Hamas’s political bureau chief Ismail Haniyeh, as well as the group’s Gaza leaders Yahya Sinwar and Khalil al-Khayeh, personally escorted the terrorist’s body through thousands of supporters in what marked rare public appearances for those officials. Sinwar recently succeeded Haniyeh as Hamas’s top leader in Gaza when Haniyeh replaced Khaled Mashaal as the organization-wide political chief.
Al-Khayeh, Sinwar’s deputy, vowed revenge for the killing, saying that “if the enemy thinks that this assassination will change the power balance, then it should know the minds of [Hamas] will be able to retaliate in kind.”
Another Hamas official said Saturday that Israel is trying to “force a new model of a clandestine war on Hamas, as it has failed in the open war model,” the Times of Israel reported.
Amid heightened tensions following Faqha’s assassination, the IDF Southern Command placed army units operating near Gaza on high alert Saturday.
Hamas also stepped up its security measures in the aftermath of Friday’s incident. Senior Hamas official Mahmoud al-Zahar called for a crackdown to root out “collaborating hands,” stating that the terror group would “cut these hands and necks,” and that “our means of revenge are multiple.”
The Gaza-ruling terror group took additional security precautions Sunday, shutting down its side of the Erez crossing between Gaza and Israel. The Israeli side of the Erez crossing remains open.