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Egypt says it will allow Hamas rocket expert’s body into Gaza — report

Cairo said to convey to Jerusalem it remains committed to ensuring the return of Israeli captives held by terror group

Palestinians gather in mourning outside the family home of 35-year-old professor and Hamas member Fadi Mohammad al-Batsh, who was killed early in the day in Malaysia, in Jabalia in the northern Gaza strip on April 21, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / MAHMUD HAMS)
Palestinians gather in mourning outside the family home of 35-year-old professor and Hamas member Fadi Mohammad al-Batsh, who was killed early in the day in Malaysia, in Jabalia in the northern Gaza strip on April 21, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / MAHMUD HAMS)

Egypt reportedly informed Israel on Tuesday it will allow the passage of the body of a Hamas rocket and drone expert, assassinated in Malaysia over the weekend, into the coastal enclave for burial.

According to Hadashot news, officials in Egypt spoke to their Israeli counterparts and confirmed that the remains of Palestinian rocket engineer Fadi Mohammad al-Batsh, gunned down in Malaysia on Saturday, will be transported to the Gaza Strip through Egypt, despite requests from Jerusalem not to comply with the request.

The Egyptian officials also stressed that they remain committed to the return of the Israelis held by the Hamas terrorist group in Gaza, the TV report said.

Batsh’s family said the body would be flown to Egypt and enter the Palestinian enclave Wednesday at 2 p.m. through the Rafah crossing. Batsh’s wife and three children would also be granted access, according to the claim.

However, Kuala Lumpur University, where Batsh was a senior lecturer, posted on its Facebook page that his body would only depart on a 7:30 p.m. flight, which means it would not arrive in Cairo until 4:40 a.m. on Thursday at the earliest. It invited colleagues, friends, and students who want to pay their last respects in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday afternoon.

We have just received confirmation from H.E. Dato Dr Anwar H Al Agha, Ambassador of the State of Palestine to Malaysia…

Posted by Universiti Kuala Lumpur – Unikl on Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Batsh, 35, was killed in a drive-by shooting on Saturday in the country’s capital, according to Malaysian authorities. His family and the Hamas terror group have blamed the hit on Israel’s Mossad spy agency.

On Sunday, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman had said Israel was asking the Egyptian government not to allow Batsh’s body to be returned to his family in the Gaza Strip until Hamas returns to Israel the bodies of two IDF soldiers, as well as two mentally ill Israeli citizens.

Oron Shaul, Hadar Goldin, and Avera Mengistu. (Flash90/The Times of Israel)

The bodies of the two soldiers — Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul — are currently being held by Hamas, along with two Israeli civilians, Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, who entered Gaza of their own volition in 2014 and 2015, respectively.

Hisham al-Sayed, who wandered into Gaza in April 2015 and has been missing and believed held by Hamas ever since. (Army Radio)

Liberman noted that while Israel did not allow bodies to pass through its own checkpoints, it could not prevent Egypt from allowing the body to be brought through the Egyptian-Gazan border crossing at Rafah.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett on Saturday also vowed to prevent Hamas from bringing Batsh’s body to burial in Gaza.

Facial composites issued by Royal Malaysia Police of two suspects in the gunning down of a Hamas rocket expert in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, April 23, 2018. (Royal Malaysia Police)

On Monday, Malaysian police issued facial composites of two suspects in the shooting. Royal Malaysia Police Inspector-General Tan Sri Mohamad Fuzi Harun said the suspects were male, around 1.80 meters tall, well-built, had fair complexions, and were believed to be of Middle Eastern or Western descent.

Harun said the composite images were based on eyewitness descriptions.

Harun said 14 bullets were recovered from the body of the victim after an autopsy and had been sent for forensic examination.

Enas al-Batsh (2nd L), widow of Palestinian professor Fadi Mohammad al-Batsh who was killed in a drive-by shooting on April 21, leaves the forensics wing of the Selayang Hospital in Kuala Lumpur on April 23, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / Mohd RASFAN)

He noted that no threat had been made against Batsh’s family.

Hamas on Saturday threatened retaliation against Israel for the killing of Batsh, an electrical engineer it said was a commander in its military wing. Israeli reports said the dead man was an expert on attack drones and rocket systems.

Later Saturday, the armed wing of Hamas opened a mourning tent in Gaza for Batsh. A main banner at the entrance to the tent described Batsh as a member of the terror group’s military wing and “a commander.”

At the mourning tent Hamas’s leader Ismail Haniyeh vowed revenge, saying that Mossad “is not far from this disgraceful, terrible crime. There will be an unsettled account between us and it. We cannot forfeit the blood of our sons, youths, and scholars.”

Palestinians gather in mourning outside the family home of 35-year-old professor and Hamas member Fadi Mohammad al-Batsh, who was killed early in the day in Malaysia, in Jabalia in the northern Gaza strip on April 21, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / MAHMUD HAMS)

Hamas said Batsh was a “loyal” member and a “scientist of Palestine’s youth scholars.” It said he had made “important contributions” and participated in international forums in the field of energy.

Hebrew media reports said Batsh was deeply involved in Hamas’s efforts to improve the accuracy of its rockets and to develop drones. The Gaza-born scientist had reportedly published material recently on drone development, and on transmitters for controlling drones.

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