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Thousands attend Gaza funeral of assassinated Hamas chief

Hamas official Mazen Faqha's body is carried by members of the al-Qassam Brigades [AFP]

Date of publication: 25 March, 2017

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Mazen Faqha was killed by unknown assailants close to his Gaza home on Friday. During funeral processions participants called for revenge against Israel.
Thousands took to the streets of Gaza city on Saturday to take part in the funeral of a slain senior Hamas official. 

Civilians joined leaders of several Palestinian political factions, in addition to members of the al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, in a procession through the city's streets to pay their respects for Mazen Faqha.

Faqha, 38, was shot dead by unknown gunmen on Friday in the Tell al-Hama neighbourhood of Gaza, which is ruled by Hamas.

His assailants reportedly used a gun equipped with a silencer in the attack which occurred close to the Hamas official's house.

Shortly afterwards a source close to Hamas' military wing, the Qassam Brigades, told The New Arab Faqha's murder appears similar to the assassination of the Tunisian drone expert Mohamed Zaouari, which the group pinned on Israel. 

Similar claims were made in the aftermath of the attack by a senior Palestinian police official in the Gaza Strip.

During the funeral procession on Saturday participants chanted slogans calling on Hamas to respond to Faqha's assassination by retaliating against the alleged Israeli action, reported The New Arab correspondent Dia Khalil. 

Participants march through the streets of Gaza city during Faqha's funeral, on Saturday.

Speaking during proceedings Khalil al-Hayya, Hamas' deputy leader in the Gaza Strip said that the paramilitary movement would respond "in a appropriate manner to this major crime" also laying blame squarely on Israel. 

For his part, speaking before the funeral, Mohammad al-Hindi, leader of the Islamic Jihad - a Hamas-aligned Islamist movement founded in the late 70's inspired by the Iranian revolution - echoed al-Hayya’s sentiments. 

Al-Hindi said that Faqha’s assassination was evidence that Israel "fantasizes that it is capable of breaking the thorn of the resistance," adding that assassination attacks targeting Palestinian leaders in fact "increase our strength and determination to continue on our way."

Faqha was jailed by Israel in 2003 for planning attacks targeting Israelis. In particular Israeli authorities held Faqha responsible for ordering a suicide bomber to carry out a 2002 attack in northern Israel in which nine people were killed and over 50 injured. 

He was initially sentenced to nine life sentences but was released in 2011 along with 1,000 other Palestinians in an exchange deal involving Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier held captive by Hamas for five years.  

Israel and Hamas have fought three wars since 2008.

Since the last one in 2014, a fragile ceasefire has been observed along the largely closed border.

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