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Hamas steps up security following terror chief’s assassination

Four new roadblocks set up between Erez Crossing and Gaza City; security checks for visitors made more stringent

Illustrative image of Hamas security forces standing guard at the Erez border crossing into Israel, in Beit Hanun, in the northern Gaza Strip on March 26, 2017. (AFP/Mahmud Hams)
Illustrative image of Hamas security forces standing guard at the Erez border crossing into Israel, in Beit Hanun, in the northern Gaza Strip on March 26, 2017. (AFP/Mahmud Hams)

Hamas said it was increasing its security along the Gaza border fence with Israel, a week after one of its terror chief’s was assassinated by masked gunmen inside the Palestinian enclave.

The terrorist group accused Israel of being behind the assassination last Friday night of Mazen Faqha, a Hamas operative previously released during the prisoner exchange in 2011 that secured the freedom of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who had been in Hamas captivity for five years.

According to a report on Army Radio, Hamas security forces have set up four new roadblocks along the road leading from the Erez Crossing into Gaza City.

At the same time, Hamas sources were quoted by the station as saying security examinations for foreign visitors, especially people from international organizations, have become more stringent.

Mazen Faqha, upon his release after the Shalit deal in 2011. (Screen capture Twitter)
Mazen Faqha, upon his release after the Shalit deal in 2011. (Screen capture Twitter)

Faqha was shot dead last Friday 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, Army Radio said, citing Gaza reports.

There was no official comment from Israel on his killing.

“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,” the group said in a statement.

Khalil al-Haya, Hamas’s deputy chief in the Gaza Strip, said only Israel would have had something to gain from the death, Reuters reported.

Iyad al-Bozum, an interior ministry spokesman in the Hamas-ruled Strip, said that “an investigation has been launched,” giving no further details.

Originally from a small village in the West Bank, Faqha headed the Hamas office in Gaza tasked with launching terror attacks against Israel from and in the West Bank. His subordinates in the branch specialized in recruiting suicide attackers, collecting weapons and preparing explosive devices.

Faqha, 38, was responsible for sending a suicide bomber to carry out an attack in northern Israel in 2002 in which nine people were killed and 52 were wounded. Before his release as part of the Shalit deal, Faqha was serving nine life sentences for planning the deadly attack.

Avi Issacharoff contributed to this report.

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