Mohammed Al-Zoari, an aviation scientist and engineer with links to Palestinian terror group Hamas, was shot dead at point-blank range on Thursday in the Tunisian city of Sfax, Hebrew outlets quoted Arabic media as saying Friday evening.
According to reports on Israel’s Channel 10 and Army Radio, unknown assailants shot Zoari, who was said to have helped Hamas develop unmanned drones, multiple times when he was sitting in his car near his home.
The reports said between three and seven bullets were found in his body.
According to Channel 10, a senior Tunisian journalist said the Israeli spy agency Mossad had been tracking Zoari for quite some time, and was responsible for his assassination.
Israel’s Channel 2 news said Zoari was reported to have received death threats because of his Palestinian terror links.
However, Channel 2 also quoted Tunisian security officials as saying that the investigation of the death did not currently suggest an assassination by a foreign intelligence agency.
There was no official Israeli response to the reports.
The Tunisian interior ministry arrested five nationals on allegations of involvement with the killing, Channel 10 reported.
Zoari was known for his ties with Hamas and was credited with helping the group develop unmanned aerial vehicles. Channel 2 showed footage of him working on what appeared to be small drones.
Later Friday, a senior Hamas official, Mushir al-Masri, told a Tunisian radio station that “the Zionist enemy” was the only party likely to benefit from the assassination of Zoari, and that Mossad had a long history of killing experts with capability to develop military technology, especially those related to developing UAVs.
Israel does not want such capabilities to reach Palestinian organizations in Gaza, Masri said, according to Israel Radio. He did not confirm Tunisian reports that Zoari was tied to Hamas.
On Saturday afternoon, Hamas officials confirmed Zoari was a central figure in its weapons development, calling him a pioneer in developing its unmanned drones.