By Middle East Affairs
Officials have confirmed to The New York Times that the assassination of a Palestinian engineer in Malaysia last week was carried out by Israel’s spy agency and that it is believed the engineer worked in arms deals with North Korea.
Fadi al-Batsh, originally from Gaza, was an electrical engineering lecturer in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur. He also had an undercover job, though. Intelligence officials speaking with The Times on the condition of anonymity described Batsh as a technology expert for the military wing of Hamas, the Islamist group that controls the Gaza Strip.
Batsh was exiting his home Saturday when two men on motorbikes gunned him down with at least 14 bullets, killing him on the spot.
Malaysian officials believe the attackers were from Middle East or Western origin but would not speculate further. Mr. Batsh’s family blamed Mossad, the Israeli spy agency.
Middle Eastern intelligence officials, however, have confirmed to The Times that the killing was part of a “broader operation” ordered by the Israeli spy agency Mossad’s chief, Yossi Cohen, “to dismantle a Hamas project that sends Gaza’s most promising scientists and engineers overseas to gather know-how and weaponry to fight Israel.”
Both Western and Middle Eastern intelligence officials also told the news organization that from within Malaysia, Batsh may have been involved in arms deals with North Korea. Egypt, the officials said, “had recently seized a shipment of North Korean communications components used for guided munitions destined for Gaza.” One official said Batsh had helped mediate the deal.
A report from the United Nations last year said that a shell company from North Korea’s intelligence agency had been “hawking” military-grade communications systems from Malaysia even though weapons of that sort are sanctioned.
The Times said Malaysian officials rejected the report and that they would not comment on the claims made about Batsh’s line of work.
Malaysian police released Wednesday a photo of one of the suspects, who was fair-skinned and with a prominent goatee.
Batsh’s body was flown to Egypt and then taken by road to Gaza for funeral and burial.
“We hold the occupation (Israel) responsible for the killing and martyrdom of Fadi, the killers of scientists will not escape punishment,” Reuters reported senior Hamas official Khalil Al-Hayya as saying when the body was received in Gaza.
Reporters said policemen carried the coffin, which was draped in the Palestinian flag.
“The sinful hands that assassinated Batsh will be severed,” Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas’s political chief, said at the funeral rally.
Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman denied the charges against Mossad on Sunday and suggested Batsh’s death was the result of inner-conflicts among Palestinian groups.