PETALING JAYA: The killing of Palestinian lecturer Fadi Al Batash was part of a broader operation by Israel’s espionage and intelligence agency Mossad to prevent Hamas from gaining weaponry and expertise, according to a New York Times report.
The report said that Mossad chief Yossi Cohen had ordered his men to dismantle a Hamas project in which the most promising scientists and engineers in Gaza are sent overseas to gather know-how and weaponry to fight Israel.
Batash was killed, because of his “undercover job”, the newspaper said, quoting intelligence officials who described the lecturer as a technology expert for the military wing of the Gaza-based Hamas movement.
He might have been involved in negotiating North Korean arms deals through Malaysia, and an unidentified intelligence official was quoted as saying that Batash had helped mediate a deal for North Korean communications components used for guided munitions. The shipment, destined for Gaza, was recently captured by Egptian officials, NYT reported.
Batash, a well-liked electrical engineering lecturer and devout family man, was gunned down early last Saturday in a hail of at least 14 bullets by two men on a motorcycle while he was walking to a mosque for morning prayers.
His family have said that he had been killed by Mossad, a claim that was confirmed to the NYT by Middle Eastern intelligence officials, the report said.
The report, quoting intelligence officials, said Batash, who in 2013 co-wrote a paper on drone applications, had been sent to Malaysia to research and acquire weapon systems and drones for Hamas.
Mossad, the unnamed officials told the NYT, had been particularly interested in Hamas’s advances in unmanned aerial and underwater vehicles as these could be used to attack Israeli targets more effectively than the rockets Hamas used during its last wars with Israel.
The report said Malaysian officials did not want to comment on the claims that Batash had been researching or trying to buy weapons systems.
The NYT said that a mourning tent was set up over the weekend in the Jabaliya refugee camp in Gaza, where Batash had grown up. Ten masked members of the Qassam Brigades, Hamas’s armed wing, were stationed in front of the tent, a positioning that usually denotes the death of a top fighter.
Banners hung in the tent described Batash as an “engineer commander” for the Qassam Brigades and “our martyr to God”, NYT reported, and quoted other instances of Palestinians abroad being targeted by Israel.
Israel, however, has denied it was responsible for Batash’s death, with Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman blaming the assassination on internal rivalry within the Palestinian leadership.