Mossad blamed again after killing of senior Hamas agent Kamal Ghanaja

But Israel links death to rift between militant group and Syria over Assad uprising

Jerusalem

The death of a Hamas agent at his home in Damascus has sparked a series of claims and counterclaims about the identity of his killers, with some officials in the militant group blaming Mossad, Israel's intelligence service.

Israel, however, suggested that the death of Kamal Ghanaja, who was killed in his home in the city's Qudsia neighbourhood, could be linked to the rift between Hamas and Syria over the group's backing of the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad. The Syrian opposition blamed the killing on the pro-Assad Shabiha militia.

Hamas officials identified Mr Ghanaja as a former deputy of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, a senior Hamas operative who was smothered to death in his hotel room in Dubai in 2010, an assassination that was widely attributed to Mossad. Sources linked to Hamas told Reuters that Mr Ghanaja's flat had been set on fire and that his charred body, which bore signs of torture, had been found in a cupboard on Wednesday. The assailants were also said to have seized files from the ransacked flat.

Yisrael Hasson, an Israeli politician and former deputy chief of Shin Bet, Israel's domestic intelligence service, told Israel Radio that Ghanaja had "replaced Mabhouh, who was responsible for the supply of special weaponry to Hamas" smuggled from Libya, Iran and Syria. Mr Hasson said that Israel was concerned that arms, including shoulder-fired ground-to-air missiles and anti-tank rockets, could fall into the hands of militant groups.

A Hamas official, meanwhile, told the French news agency AFP that "according to our information, Mossad was behind the assassination" of Ghanaja, though he offered no evidence to support the claim. Osama Hamdan, the senior Hamas representative in Lebanon, also said that because Hamas was in confrontation with Israel "it could be expected that the occupation would try to harm our cadres. The only beneficiary of such an action is the Zionist occupier," he said. But a Hamas statement in Gaza stopped short of accusing Israel, saying only that an investigation had been launched "to identify the party behind this deplorable crime".

The Local Co-ordination Committees of Syria, a Syrian opposition group, accused the Shabiha of torturing Ghanaja to death and setting fire to his home to "destroy the evidence of their heinous crime".

Asked about the allegations of Israeli involvement, the Defence Minister, Ehud Barak, told Israel Radio: "I don't think that is necessarily true." In a separate interview, he added that "it is possible that not only Israel" was after Ghanaja, who he said "was no saint".

The political leadership of Hamas had been based in Damascus for years, but tensions with the Syrian government increased after the group failed to support the crackdown on the uprising against Assad. Most senior Hamas officials have left Damascus, including the leader, Khaled Mashal, relocating to Egypt, the Gaza Strip and Qatar.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones