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Hamas confirms slain Tunisian engineer visited Gaza several times

Jan. 31, 2017 5:24 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 31, 2017 5:24 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- A spokesman for the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of the Hamas movement, confirmed on Tuesday that the Tunisian aviation engineer, Muhammad al-Zouari, who is believed to have been assassinated by Israeli authorities last month, had visited the besieged Gaza Strip several times.

Abu Ubaida confirmed in a news conference in Rafah city in the southern Gaza Strip that al-Zouari had traveled to the small Palestinian territory several times to meet with leaders of the al-Qassam Brigades.

The news conference followed an inauguration of a monument erected for al-Zouari in Rafah.

“Late leader al-Zouari visited Gaza several times to share his science and creativity. His name will remain like a flag fluttering with each drone, missile, and explosive device that scares the occupiers on the land, sea, and air” Abu Ubaida added.

The Hamas movement released a statement last month following the alleged assassination of al-Zouari by the Mossad, Israel’s foreign intelligence agency, saying that the aviation engineer was a leader of the group’s military wing.

Hamas directly accused Israel of the assassination at the time, saying that “the coward Zionist hands assassinated the al-Qassam Brigades leader,” and called al-Zouari the “pioneer of the Arab Spring and the sponsor of the Palestinian revolution and resistance.”

The statement highlighted that the Ababil drones, the Iranian-developed drones reportedly manufactured by al-Zouari, played a major role in the resistance during the 2014 Israeli military offensive on the besieged Gaza Strip.

Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported at the time that Tunisian journalist Burhan Basis said that the Mossad had carried out the assassination and al-Zouari’s work on drones for the Hamas movement led to Israeli intelligence targeting the official.

Al-Zouari was reportedly "shot at close range with six bullets, three to his head, while in his car," Haaretz said, adding that reports indicated that the assassin was "highly professional and skilled, and didn't leave a trace."

Al-Zouari was also a former Tunisair pilot, Haaretz also reported at the time, and worked with Tunisia’s civil aviation in assisting the training of young people on how to operate drones.
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