Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal on Monday accused Israel of changing “the rules of the game” following the killing of a top Hamas terrorist, and vowed revenge.
“Israel decided to change the rules of the game, and we accept the challenge,” Mashaal said In a speech broadcast at a memorial service in Gaza, in reference to Friday’s killing of Mazen Faqha. “The Zionist occupier took from us a great hero and for this we will not sit quietly.”
Israel has not acknowledged any involvement in the killing.
Faqha, a Hamas member freed under the 2011 prisoner swap deal for IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, was shot dead by gunmen in Gaza City on Friday.
Although neither Israel nor any other group has taken credit for Faqha’s assassination, Hamas blames Israel for the killing and has vowed to take revenge.
Israeli defense officials predicted this week that Hamas would try to retaliate for his killing via operatives in the West Bank, rather than Gaza, possibly staging an attack within Israel.
Majed Faraj, the head of the Palestinian Authority’s security agency, said that the PA will work to thwart any revenge attacks by Hamas operatives in the West Bank against Israeli targets in retaliation for Faqha’s death.
“We will not allow the West Bank to serve as a base for any type of response,” Channel 10 quoted Faraj as saying in an interview with the German daily Der Spiegel.
Faraj also said that the Palestinian intelligence services are working with Israel’s Shin Bet security agency to ensure Hamas is unable to carry out any sort of revenge attacks.
Faqha hailed from the northern West Bank town of Tubas, where he was arrested in 2002 for his involvement in terrorism during the Second Intifada. He was serving multiple life sentences for orchestrating a 2002 suicide bombing in which nine Israelis were killed.
Following his release from prison in the 2011 Shalit deal, Faqha was expelled to Gaza, where he and fellow West Banker Abd el-Rahman Ghanimat founded the “West Bank section” within the Gaza-based group.
According to Israeli intelligence, Faqha and Ghanimat’s “fingerprints” were on many attempted and successful terror attacks emanating from Hamas cells in the West Bank in recent years.
Dov Lieber and Avi Issacharoff contributed to this report.