Mazen Faqha, a Hamas official freed as part of the 2011 deal to release captive IDF soldier Gilad Shalit and deported to Gaza, was assassinated on Friday evening by unknown gunmen. Hamas said Israel was to blame and vowed revenge. Israel had no comment.
Faqha, who was jailed for life for organizing a 2002 suicide bombing, was released along with more than 1,000 other Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Shalit, who was held by Hamas for five years.
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.
The identity and motive of the assailants was not immediately clear. 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,” Hamas said in a statement reported by Reuters.
Khalil al-Haya, Hamas’s deputy chief in the Gaza Strip, said only Israel would have had something to gain from the death, Reuters added.
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 tasked with launching terror attacks against Israel from and in the territory. 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.
He was captured by the IDF and Shin Bet security services that year in his home village of Toubas in the northern West Bank.
According to a report in Haaretz from the time, Faqha was captured after a lengthy manhunt. He had previously been involved in several other attacks.
Before his release as part of the Shalit deal, Faqha was serving nine life sentences for planning the deadly 2002 terror attack.