Hamas’s exiled leader, Khaled Maashal, said Israel had changed “the rules of the game” after the killing of a top terrorist commander in the Gaza Strip last week. Israel has not confirmed nor denied that it was behind the death of the commander, Mazen Faqha.
“Israel decided to change the rules of the game, and we accept the challenge,” Mashaal said in a speech broadcast during a memorial service for Faqha, killed last Friday in an incident that Hamas has blamed on Israel.
“The Zionist occupier took from us a great hero, and for this we will not sit quietly,” he said.
Israel is not the only possible culprit for the assassination, as Salafi jihadist groups in Gaza have also targeted Hamas leaders.
Mashaal claimed Faqha had planned to carry out an attack on Israel right before his death.
“Faqha told me five hours before he was murdered that he was about to carry out a large project in the West Bank,” he said.
Faqha was responsible for masterminding terror attacks throughout Judea and Samaria. He was arrested by Israel in 2002 and later sentenced to nine life sentences for his role in coordinating a suicide bombing that killed nine people on a bus near the Israeli city of Safed.
But Faqha was released from prison and deported to Gaza as part of the controversial 2011 Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange deal with Hamas. After his release, Faqha resumed his terror activities and founded Hamas’s West Bank headquarters.