Israeli defense officials have warned that Hamas is planning a terrorist attack in the West Bank to avenge the killing of one of its former masterminds and convicted terrorist Mazen Faqha, who was murdered in March in what Hamas claims was a Mossad operation, the Hebrew daily Israel Hayom reported Thursday.
Since Faqha was shot in the garage of his apartment building on March 24, the Hamas leadership has vowed to carry out a revenge attack against Israel. The terrorist organization identified the man behind the assassination as Ashraf Abu Layla, a 37-year-old former Hamas member from Gaza.
Before being expelled years ago over “moral transgressions,” Abu Layla was a member of Hamas’s military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, after which Palestinian media outlets claim he was recruited by Mossad to carry out the killing.
On Thursday, Hamas announced the arrest of the man they hold responsible for Faqha’s murder and claimed he had confessed to working for the Israelis. “We hereby announce to our people and nation the discovery and arrest of the killer,” newly elected Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said during a press conference in Gaza.
The assassin “admitted clearly and in detail… that he carried out orders of officers from the Zionist security services,” Haniyeh said, and promised that “Punishment will be carried out against the murderer.” Hamas recently executed three men it accused of collaborating with Israel.
Faqha was serving nine life terms in Israeli prison for masterminding a suicide-bombing that claimed the lives of nine people and wounded many more. He was released in an exchange deal for Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit with more than 1,000 other Palestinian prisoners in 2011, after which he returned to Gaza.
Israeli officials have rejected accusations of Israel’s involvement in the killing of Faqha. In April, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman told the Hebrew daily Yedioth Ahronoth that “Today, we can say with certainty that this was an internal assassination.”
[Photo: Abed Rahim Khatib / Flash90 ]