The family of Fadi Mohammad al-Batsh, a Palestinian man linked to the militant group Hamas who was shot dead in Malaysia, have accused Israeli spies of carrying out an assassination halfway across the world — a claim the Jewish state rejects.
Malaysian police on Monday released images of two men they said were suspects in the shooting of Batsh, 35, who was gunned down by two men on a street near his home in Kuala Lumpur on Saturday morning.
Mohamad Fuzi, Malaysia’s inspector general of police, told reporters that both suspects were riding motorcycles, and that 14 bullets were retrieved from Batsh’s body following a postmortem.
Mr Fuzi also said that the two men were fair-skinned and had “European or Middle Eastern features”, and that authorities were unable to say whether they were still in Malaysia.
Israel and Malaysia do not have formal diplomatic relations, but the killing has inflamed emotions in a majority Muslim country. Malaysia downgraded relations with North Korea after last year’s killing of Kim Jong Nam, supreme leader Kim Jong Un’s half-brother, at Kuala Lumpur airport in what is widely believed to have been a political assassination.
Batsh, who came from the Jabalya refugee camp in northern Gaza, was a senior lecturer in power engineering at the University of Kuala Lumpur’s British Malaysian Institute. In a Facebook post confirming his death, the university said that he had been a member of its staff since 2016.
Batsh’s family accused Mossad, the Israeli overseas spy agency that has carried out targeted assassinations outside Israel in the past, of being responsible for his death.
Hamas, the militant Islamist group that rules Gaza, said that Batsh was a member of the organisation, which Israel, the US, and other countries classify as a terrorist group.
Ismail Haniyeh, a senior political figure in the group, was at a mourning tent set up by Batsh’s family in Jabalya, after the group described him as one of “our knights”. Mr Haniyeh, told reporters that Batsh’s murder would remain an “unsettled account” between Hamas and Israel.
“We cannot forfeit the blood of our sons, youths, and scholars,” he said. “Mossad is not far away from this disgraceful, terrible crime.”
Ronen Bergman, an Israeli journalist who authored a book about Mossad’s targeted killings, said the spy organisation had assassinated Batsh, and that he was “a member of the military wing of Hamas” and “part of one of the most secret unit(s) that dealt with the development of advanced weapons for the organisation”.
Mr Bergman said that the killing was reminiscent of an assassination in December 2016, when Mossad agents were accused of killing Mohammed al-Zawari, an aeronautical engineer who was shot dead outside his home in Tunisia.
Mossad has been accused of other past killings of Palestinians overseas, including the murder of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in a hotel in Dubai in 2010. Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s defence minister, on Sunday dismissed the allegation that Mossad was to blame for the shooting, saying that Batsh was killed as part of an internal Palestinian dispute.
Mr Lieberman told Israeli radio that Batsh was a rocket expert. Israel has fought three military operations since 2009 against Hamas, which attacked the country with rockets and mortars in the latest of these in 2014.