GAZA (Reuters) - The body of Fadi al-Batsh, a Palestinian lecturer claimed as a member by Hamas who was gunned down in Malaysia at the weekend, was repatriated to Gaza and buried on Thursday.
Hamas, the Islamist militant group that controls the Gaza Strip and claimed Batsh as its “son”, has accused Israel’s Mossad spy agency of assassinating him. Israel’s defence minister has said Batsh might have been killed in an internal Palestinian dispute.
Malaysian authorities said two men on a high-powered motorcycle fired at least 14 shots at Batsh, an engineering lecturer, outside his Kuala Lumpur apartment building on Saturday, killing him on the spot.
Malaysia’s deputy prime minister said the two suspects were believed to be linked to a foreign intelligence service.
Batsh’s body was flown to Egypt, accompanied by his wife and son, and then taken by road to Gaza for a reception attended by members of all political factions and relatives, followed by burial in the northern Gaza Strip.
“We hold the occupation (Israel) responsible for the killing and martyrdom of Fadi, the killers of scientists will not escape punishment,” senior Hamas official Khalil Al-Hayya said as the body was received in Gaza.
Policemen carried Batsh’s coffin, draped in the Palestinian flag, past an honour guard as family members wept.
“The sinful hands that assassinated Batsh will be severed,” Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas’s political chief, said at the funeral rally. Hamas has confirmed Batsh was a member, but has not specified what role he had in the movement.
Earlier, at least 1,000 Gazans joined relatives and friends at the funeral of local journalist Ahmed Abu Hussein, who was shot and wounded by Israeli troops while covering a protest along Gaza’s border two weeks ago.
Abu Hussein, 24, died of his wounds on Wednesday at an Israeli hospital where he had been moved for treatment. His body was returned to Gaza for burial.
Abu Hussein was the second journalist killed by Israeli gunfire since the weekly Friday protests. Thirty-eight Palestinians have been killed in all since the protests began on March 30. The protesters are calling for a right of return of Palestinians refugees and their descendants to homes in what is now Israel.
Israel’s live-fire response has drawn international criticism. But it says its troops have been warning Gazans not to approach the border fence, and that it is doing what is necessary to stop the barrier from being damaged or breached.
The Palestinians have said Israel, which has deployed army sharpshooters along the frontier, used “excessive force against unarmed protesters”, Some protesters have hurled stones and rolled burning tyres towards the fence.
Hamas is designated by Israel and the West as a terrorist group.
Reporting by Nidal Almughrabi; Editing by Ori Lewis and Kevin Liffey