Hamas leader accuses Israel over official's killing

#Occupation

Khaled Meshaal said the killing proved the 'conflict with the occupier remains open'

The political leader of the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, Khaled Meshaal (C), attends the funeral of his mother on September 4, 2016 in the Jordanian capital, Amman (AFP)
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Tuesday 28 March 2017 11:50 UTC
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Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal on Monday accused Israel of having killed one of the Palestinian group's officials after he was shot dead in the Gaza Strip.

Mazen Faqha, 38, was shot dead by unknown gunmen Friday with four bullets from a pistol equipped with a silencer.

"By killing Faqha, the enemy told us: 'I've scored a point against you and I can take away one of your heroes even in the heart of Gaza,'" Meshaal told supporters at a memorial in the Palestinian enclave.

"It's a new blood debt that adds itself to all those before. The conflict with the occupier (Israel) remains open," said Meshaal, who was speaking via video link from Qatar where he lives.

"The military and political leadership of Hamas is ready to meet the occupier's challenge."

Hamas "is capable of continuing its mission. Our will is stronger than their weapons and we will defeat them in the end," he added.

Hamas authorities partially reopened the crossing between the Gaza Strip and Israel on Monday, after a one-day closure following the assassination.

"From Monday morning, travel through the Beit Hanoun (Erez) crossing will be permitted temporarily for some categories," said Iyad al-Bozum, a spokesman for the interior ministry in the enclave.

Anyone would be allowed to enter Gaza, he said in a statement, but those leaving would remain restricted to senior politicians, the sick and families of prisoners.

The latter two groups would be limited by age - only those under 15 and over 45.

Hamas, which runs the Gaza Strip, closed the crossing totally on Sunday after blaming Israel for the killing.

The group did not give details on the reason for closing the crossing, though there was speculation authorities may be seeking to prevent those responsible for the killing from leaving.

Hamas officials have said the killing bears the hallmarks of Israel's intelligence service Mossad, but Israel has not commented on the shooting.

On Monday, Gaza's attorney general Ismail Jaber placed a gag order on information relating to the assassination.

Thousands attend funeral

According to Hamas, Faqha formed cells for the group's military wing in the West Bank cities of Tubas, where he was born, and Jenin.

Faqha's funeral on Saturday drew thousands of Hamas supporters into the streets with chants of "revenge" and "death to Israel".

Ismail Haniya, until recently head of Hamas in Gaza, and Yahya Sinwar, who replaced him as leader, headed the procession.

The Erez crossing is the only one between Gaza and Israel. Another crossing with Israel, Kerem Shalom, is used for goods and remained open on Sunday, Palestinian officials said.

The Gaza Strip has been under an Israeli blockade for a decade. Palestinian militants in Gaza and Israel have fought three wars since 2008.

Gaza's sole crossing with Egypt has also remained largely closed in recent years.