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Gaza security forces reveal details of investigation into Mazen Fuqahaa's killing

May 16, 2017 4:21 P.M. (Updated: May 16, 2017 9:56 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Days after it was announced that the suspected killer of Hamas leader Mazen Fuqahaa had been arrested, the Hamas-run Ministry of Interior in the Gaza Strip has released the details of the case.

Fuqahaa’s assassination in front of his home in Gaza City in March sparked a severe security crackdown by Hamas authorities across the besieged coastal enclave, culminating in the arrest of three Palestinians who confessed to having collaborated with Israel to carry out the assassination, in addition to the arrest of 45 other collaborators, head of Gaza’s Internal Security Forces Tawfiq Abu Naim said on Tuesday.

The new head of Hamas’ politburo, Ismail Haniyeh, said Thursday that Fuqahaa’s “killer” had confessed and provided “all information and details of his crime” and that he had received direct orders by Israeli officials to carry out the assassination.

Haniyeh called the development a “historical moment” and a point of justice for a “heroic leader” of Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades -- the armed wing of the Hamas movement -- during the press conference.

Abu Naim said at a press conference in Gaza City that the self-styled “Decoded” security campaign was launched immediately after the assassination.

The crackdown was marked by unprecedented restrictions on freedom of movement in the small Palestinian territory for nearly two weeks and “a week of repentance,” in which security and legal protection was promised to those who confessed to collaborating with Israel on the killing.

Wrapping up the gag order imposed by authorities amid the security campaign, Abu Naim announced that security services were able to arrest Fuqahaa’s “direct executioner,” who he identified as 38-year-old “A.L.,” who allegedly confessed committing the crime and to his relation to Israeli intelligence services.

A military court in Gaza reportedly began his trial on Monday.

Two other collaborators -- 44-year-old “H.A.” and 38-year-old “A.N.” -- also confessed to having main roles in the assassination, according to Abu Naim.

Noting that the security campaign involved sealing Gaza’s land and sea borders as well as erecting numerous security checkpoints, Abu Naim said that investigations also lead to the arrest of 45 additional collaborators with Israel, which he referred to as a “brutal blow to Israeli intelligence services.”

A 14-minute video published by the Gaza Interior Ministry on Fuqahaa’s assassination purported to show the three collaborators making detailed confessions, with faces blurred in dimly-lit rooms to conceal their identities, though voice changers were not used.

The three explain how they were deployed by Israeli intelligence and assigned to the mission, while the video also purports to show actual security camera footage captured at the scene before and after the assassination.

Hamas said at the time of Fuqahaa’s killing that he was shot in the head with four bullets in front of his home in southwestern Gaza City, and that his assassin used a silenced gun.

In the ministry's film, A.L. admits to having been in contact with an Israeli intelligence officer named Bilal. "On the day of the assassination I called Bilal and waited near a restaurant next to Fuqahaa’s home. When he came home in his car, I got closer to him in order to get him to lower the window of his car. Then I fired six bullets and ran away using an escape route that had been set up in advance by the Israeli handler."

According to Abu Naim, the assassination took more than eight months to plan.

He said at the press conference that he “held the Israeli occupation entirely responsible for Fuqahaa’s assassination and its consequences.”

“Israel attempted to wash its hands of any responsibility for the assassination by choosing to deploy collaborator A.L.,” Abu Naim declared, stressing that investigations and the resulting confessions exposed Israel's failed attempt to conceal its culpability.

He added that the three collaborators who took part in the assassination were also involved in shelling and bombing buildings -- both governmental and civilian institutions -- during Israeli offensives on the Gaza Strip in 2008, 2012, and 2014, and were also involved in the assassination of several other “leaders of the resistance.”

Under Hamas’ rule in the Gaza Strip, collaboration with Israel typically results in a death sentence. Most recently, three Palestinians charged with collaborating with Israel were executed in April.
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