by Ari Lieberman
Hamas promises vengeance after death of senior terrorist -- while Israel places its forces on high alert.
Mazen Faqha's career as a Palestinian terrorist came to an abrupt end this past Friday when a gunman or perhaps more than one gunman, pumped four bullets into his brain. According to his wife, the two had just returned home from a trip and the liquidation occurred just outside their home in the Gaza City neighborhood of Tel Al Hawa. “I didn’t feel or hear a thing,” she said, adding that, “everything happened quietly.” Hamas officials claimed that a silencer was used in the shooting though they offered no proof.
Whoever wanted him dead wanted to be sure that the job was completed successfully, thus the use of redundant measures. It was a clean kill without collateral damage and no gratuitous violence – almost business-like. The assassin or assassins escaped undetected.
As far as terrorists are concerned, Faqha was as bad as they come. In 2002, he recruited a suicide bomber to carry out a suicide attack that resulted in the deaths of nine Israelis. Later that year, he was apprehended by Israeli security forces after an intensive dragnet. He received nine life sentences for his role in the bombing only to be released in 2011 in the deleterious Gilad Schalit prisoner exchange where some 1,000 terrorists were released for the captive Israeli.
After his release, he was deported to Gaza where he quickly resumed his terror activities. According various published reports, Faqha was in charge of setting up Hamas terror cells in Judea and Samaria. Some of his extracurricular activities included recruiting terrorists and providing funds and instructions for execution of terror operations. These nefarious activities made him a marked man.
Hamas was quick to condemn Israel for Faqha’s unnatural demise and with customary bluster and banal rhetoric swore revenge against the “Occupation,” a euphemism for Israel. At a memorial service, Hamas politburo chief, Khaled Mashaal, stated that “The Zionist occupier took from us a great hero and for this we will not sit quietly.” Other Hamas officials struck an equally combative and belligerent tone.
In response to the assassination, Hamas closed the Erez crossing, the Gaza Strip’s main crossing point into Israel. This action appears to be self-defeating since it prevents humanitarian aid from entering the Strip and prevents Gazans seeking medical treatment in Israel from leaving. The closure also adversely affects journalists and aid workers.
Hamas has offered no proof that Israel was behind the killing and Israel has offered no comment on the matter, though it did put its forces on high alert along the border as a precautionary measure. Hamas leaders have become unhinged as a result of the slaying and Israel is taking no chances.
There is good reason to believe that Israel was involved but there is equally good reason to believe that this was an internal matter between rival Hamas gang factions. Hamas is a notoriously corrupt organization where hundreds of millions in Western aid money is siphoned off by Hamas bigwigs. In addition, the lucrative smuggling industry represents a huge source of revenue for Hamas officials who impose taxes on smuggled goods and charge fees for tunnel operations. Hamas officials also operate extortion rings. The extent of the criminal enterprise in Gaza makes it extremely plausible that Faqha encroached on someone’s turf and paid the ultimate price for his transgression.
On the other hand, there is a strong likelihood of Israeli involvement. As noted, Faqha was knee-deep in terror activities. Moreover, he was a convicted murderer nine times over but thanks to the Schalit deal, only served one year for each person he killed. There was a strong motive for Israel to remove him from the scene.
Israeli agents have developed a penchant for liquidating terrorists in far-flung places. In December 2016, the father of Hamas’s militarized drone program, Mohammad Zawari, was liquidated in Tunisia in a hit that was widely attributed to Israel. And barely a week ago, Yasser al-Sayed, who commanded an Iranian-backed militia and was planning attacks against Israel, was incinerated when a missile, believed to have been fired from a killer drone, hit his car near the Syrian town of Khan Arnaba.
It is plausible that Israeli agents, using a network of Palestinian informers as well as state of the art technology, tracked Faqha’s movements and killed him at the first available opportunity. There is no shortage of Palestinians willing to work for Israel for a variety of reasons. The Gaza Strip is an impoverished place where cash is king and an equally good motivator. In addition, many Gazans despise Hamas and its iron-like rule that it imposes on the Strip. They detest the corruption and affluence of Hamas bigwigs while they toil for pennies. Hamas’s arch rival, Fatah, though neutered, still maintains a presence in the Strip and willing assistance can almost certainly be found among this pool.
Among the most compelling reasons to suspect Israeli involvement is the manner in which Faqha was liquidated. There was no gratuitous violence; no savagery or gore. It was a clean professional job. When Palestinians kill each other, it is usually accompanied by extreme gore and horrific violence. In past notable incidents of Palestinian internecine violence, victims were either tethered to motorcycles and dragged through the streets or hung on utility poles, upside down, Mussolini style.
The killing of Mazen Faqha has left Hamas unhinged and nervous. Israel has a long memory and even a longer reach and Hamas terrorists are not sleeping comfortably these days. But regardless of who killed Mazen Faqha, the world is clearly a better place without him in it.
Ari Lieberman is an attorney and former prosecutor who has authored numerous articles and publications on matters concerning the Middle East and is considered an authority on geo-political and military developments affecting the region.
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