The body of a Hamas-affiliated Palestinian electrical engineer who was shot dead in Malaysia in an assassination blamed on Israel arrived in Gaza Thursday afternoon, after being flown to Egypt and taken through the Rafah border crossing, Palestinian media said.
Fadi Mohammad al-Batsh, a member of the Islamist terror group who Israel says was a rocket and drone expert, was shot by motorbike-riding attackers Saturday as he walked from his Kuala Lumpur home to a mosque for dawn prayers.
Relatives and Palestinian faction leaders gathered in a show of respect to greet the body as it entered Gaza through the Egyptian border.
Family and friends of the 35-year-old, along with Hamas, have accused Israel’s Mossad spy agency of carrying out the killing, but Israel has denied the claim.
The Khabr Palestinian news agency reported that several top Hamas officials were at Rafah crossing to welcome Batsh’s body. Video showed uniformed soldiers preparing to greet him
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Israel attempted to prevent Batsh’s body from entering the Strip until Hamas agreed to return to Israel the bodies of two IDF soldiers, as well as two mentally ill Israeli citizens, but Egypt refused.
Batsh is to be buried on Friday after morning prayers at the Great Omari Mosque in Gaza City. Ismail Haniyeh, head of Hamas, the Palestinian terror group that governs the coastal enclave, will lead the funeral.
A service was held for him on Wednesday in the Malaysian capital, accompanied by a crowd shouting for revenge on Israel.
Hundreds of mourners marched through the capital under Palestinian flags accompanying a van holding the body. They carried placards showing the victim’s face and chanted, “God is greatest.”
The Hamas-affiliated Palestinian Information Center reported that the crowd also chanted, “Al-Qassam Brigades, make the criminals pay!” The Al-Qassam Brigades is Hamas’s military wing.
Malaysian police on Wednesday released a photograph of one of two suspects in the killing of Batsh, saying they have yet to identify the pair, who may still be in the country.
The men were believed to have entered Malaysia in January but their nationalities were still unknown, police said.
The motorbike they were allegedly riding was found abandoned Tuesday not far from where the assassination took place.
The Mossad has been accused in the past of eliminating figures who supplied Palestinian and Lebanese terror groups with advanced technology, as well as of assassinating Iranian nuclear scientists.
Batsh’s expertise in making weapons could have made him a target, as terrorists in Hamas-ruled Gaza regularly fire rockets at southern Israel. The Gaza-born scientist had reportedly published material recently on drone development, and on transmitters for controlling drones.
But Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman denied claims of the Jewish state’s involvement, suggesting instead that it was a “settling of scores” between factions of a terror group.
On Thursday, Liberman told the Arabic news site Elaph: “Ask James Bond … maybe James Bond killed him like in the movies.”
Palestinian journalist buried
Earlier on Thursday, hundreds of Palestinians took part in the funeral of a Gaza journalist who died after being shot by Israeli troops while covering a border protest.
Ahmed Abu Hussein, 24, died on Wednesday at an Israeli hospital, nearly two weeks after he was shot on April 13.
Amateur video taken at the time shows him wearing a blue vest and helmet with the word “TV” on it. He appeared to be standing far from the Israeli border in a group of bystanders when he was shot.
In a statement Thursday, the Israeli military said “the circumstances regarding the injury of Ahmed Abu Hussein will be examined.”