Thousands of Hamas supporters on Saturday called for “revenge” during the Gaza funeral of a top terrorist, as leaders of the terror group continued to blame Israel for his killing and threatened retribution.
“Revenge, revenge!” called participants at the procession for Mazen Faqha, 38, who was shot dead by unknown gunmen in the Gaza Strip on Friday.
Hamas-nominated attorney general Ismail Jaber blamed Israel for the killing of Faqha, who was freed as part of the 2011 deal to release captive IDF soldier Gilad Shalit and deported to Gaza.
“This assassination has the clear marks of Mossad,” Jaber said.
Faqha is believed to have been responsible for Hamas terror cells in the West Bank.
Faqha’s father, who lives in the West Bank, told a Hamas TV station that Israeli intelligence officers had warned the family three times that his son’s terrorist activity was going to get him killed. “They said Mazen was carrying out attacks against Israel, and that Israel’s arm is long,” he said.
Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniyeh and Yahya Sinwar, the new leader of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, headed the procession from the Shifa morgue to the Omari mosque, an AFP photographer said.
Khalil al-Haya, a deputy to Sinwar, promised retaliation.
“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,” he said. On Friday al-Haya said that only the Jewish state would have had something to gain from Faqha’s death.
A Hamas official quoted by Army Radio said Israel was “trying to force a new model of a clandestine war on Hamas, as it has failed in the open war model.” He said Hamas would know how to respond to such tactics.
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Faqha was shot dead near his home in Tel el-Hawa, a neighborhood in southwestern Gaza City, by assailants using a weapon equipped with a silencer. He was hit by four bullets to the head, Gaza reports quoted by Army Radio said.
“Hamas and its (military wing) hold (Israel) and its collaborators responsible for this despicable crime… (Israel) knows that the blood of fighters is not spilled in vain and Hamas will know how to act,” Hamas said in a statement reported by Reuters.
Faqha, 38 and originally from the West Bank, had received nine life sentences for planning a 2002 suicide bombing in which nine people were killed and 52 were wounded.
In 2011 he was released along with more than 1,000 other Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Shalit, and was sent to Gaza.
Following his release Faqha was one of the leaders of Hamas’s efforts to launch terror attacks against Israel from the West Bank. Working from Gaza, he helped set up and direct numerous terror cells tasked with carrying out deadly attacks against Israelis.
Avi Issacharoff contributed to this report.