Top Hamas official assassinated in Damascus


A Palestinian fighter from the Popular Resistance Committee, an Islamist coalition of militants based in the Gaza Strip, attends a training session in Khan Yunis in southern Gaza in December 2010.



A senior member of the Palestinian militant group Hamas has been assassinated in the Syrian capital, Damascus.

According to the BBC, gunmen burst into the home of Kamal Ghanaja in the northern suburb of Qudsaya earlier this week and shot him dead. A source told Reuters news agency that his corpse bore the marks of torture:

“The charred, scarred body was concealed in a ceiling closet and a fire had engulfed the house which apparently the assassins had started,” he said, adding that while Ghanaja’s body was discovered Wednesday he had been probably been killed a day earlier.

Hamas officials told the BBC that Ghanaja had previously served as an aide to Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, a senior Hamas member killed in Dubai two years ago in what was widely believed to have been an operation by the Israeli secret service, Mossad.

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Unusually, Hamas has not formally blamed Israel for this week’s killing and said in a statement that it had launched an investigation “to identify the party behind the deplorable crime.”

However, one official told the Agence France Presse that “according to our information, Mossad was behind the assassination.” Speaking on Israeli Army Radio, Israel’s defence minister, Ehud Barak, described the accusation as “not necessarily true.”

Most senior Hamas members left their political HQ in Damascus earlier this year in protest at Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s bloody crackdown on anti-government demonstrations. According to The Financial Times, only a small number are believed to remain in the capital, with top leaders like Khaled Meshal now basing themselves in Qatar, Egypt and other countries.