A senior Hamas member has been killed in a suburb of the Syrian capital Damascus, a member of the group said yesterday, accusing Israel’s spy agency of being behind the attack.
Israel’s defense minister said on army radio in response to the suggestion: “I’m not sure that that’s necessarily right.”
Hamas said the member, Kamal Hussein Ghannaja, was killed on Wednesday.
“A group of people entered his home in Qudsaya ... where he was liquidated,” the official said on condition of anonymity.
“According to our information, Mossad was behind the assassination,” he added, referring to Israel’s foreign intelligence agency.
The official said Ghannaja was one of the deputies of Mahmud al-Mabhuh, a senior Hamas military commander found dead in a Dubai hotel room in 2010. Investigators in the Gulf emirate have accused Mossad of that murder.
However, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said it was not “necessarily true” that Mossad was behind Ghannaja’s assassination, adding that nonetheless he would not mourn the Hamas member because he was not “one of the righteous of his generation.”
Syria has long allowed Hamas to operate offices in Damascus, but in recent months, the Palestinian group has quietly moved most of its operations elsewhere as an uprising that is spiraling into civil war has rocked the country.
The situation in neighboring Syria has been a key concern for Israel, and topped the agenda of talks between Israeli officials and Russian President Vladimir Putin, who visited the Jewish state earlier this week.
Barak yesterday expressed hope that no new arms would be sent to Syria, adding that Putin “listened perfectly to what we said” on the issue, particularly on the delivery of S-300 surface-to-air missiles.
Israel is still technically at war with Syria, but the armistice line separating the neighbors has been largely quiet in recent years, leading some to suggest that the fall of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad could be bad for the Jewish state.
However in recent months, after initially declining to make public comment, Israeli leaders have condemned Assad’s crackdown, saying it is only a matter of time before he is ousted.
Meanwhile, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will meet with Israeli Vice Premier Shaul Mofaz on Sunday, a Palestinian official said, in the highest-level meeting between the sides since peace talks broke down in 2010.
“There will be a meeting on Sunday between President Abbas and Mr Mofaz. This comes after a request for a meeting from Mofaz,” Chief Palestinian Negotiator Saeb Erekat told Voice of Palestine Radio yesterday.
A spokesman for Mofaz would not confirm or deny that a meeting had been arranged, but he did say there was ongoing contact with Abbas’ office toward setting up such an event.
Mofaz told reporters this month that he intended to meet Abbas “to examine ways to restart peace negotiations with the Palestinians.”
However, few expect any progress in the long-frozen peace talks ahead of the US presidential elections in November.