Hamas Accuses Israel of Assassinating Palestinian Operative in Dubai
The group blamed Israel for the slaying of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh but offered no evidence of foul play or Israeli involvement in the man's death. Israel's government had no immediate comment.
Izzat Rashaq, a top member of Hamas' exiled leadership in Damascus, told The Associated Press that details have not been released to avoid compromising an ongoing investigation, and that Hamas' delayed announcement was linked to an attempt to "reach the Israeli agents who implemented this operation."
Al-Mabhouh lived in Syria and was passing through Dubai when he was killed late Jan. 19 or early Jan. 20, Rashaq said. Originally from the Gaza Strip, al-Mabhouh was married and had four children, he said.
"We in Hamas hold the Zionist enemy responsible for the criminal assassination of our brother, and we pledge to God and to the blood of the martyrs and to our people to continue his path of jihad and martyrdom," read the statement on Hamas' Palestinian Information Center Web site. The group pledged to "retaliate for this Zionist crime at the appropriate time and place."
Al-Mabhouh will be buried Friday at the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk, near Damascus, the statement said.
The Hamas statement identified al-Mabhouh as one of the founders of Hamas' military organization, which has been responsible for hundreds of deadly attacks and suicide bombings targeting Israelis since the 1980s. He was 50 years old.
It said al-Mabhouh was involved in the kidnapping and killing of two Israeli soldiers in 1989 and that he was still playing a "continuous role in supporting his brothers in the resistance inside the occupied homeland" at the time of his death.
He was born in the Gaza Strip.
In Dubai, officials could not be immediately reached for comment.
Hamas rules the Gaza strip, but has leaders and operatives based in Damascus, Syria and elsewhere. The group's members abroad have been targeted in the past. The leader of the group's Damascus-based politburo, Khaled Mashaal, survived an Israeli assassination attempt in Amman, Jordan, in 1997. Last month, two Hamas men were killed in a mysterious late-night blast in Beirut. Hamas said at the time that Israel was an obvious suspect but stopped short of openly accusing Israel of the killings.
Israel is suspected of being behind the assassination of a senior military commander from the Lebanese guerrilla group Hezbollah in Damascus in 2008. The Mossad, Israel's intelligence arm abroad, never openly discusses its operations and Israel's government typically does not comment on incidents in which the Mossad's involvement is suspected.
Associated Press Writers Matti Friedman in Jerusalem, Mohammed Daraghmeh in Ramallah, West Bank, Zeina Karam in Beirut and Barbara Surk in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, contributed to this report.