Hamas says man gunned down in Malaysia was important member

A Palestinian man was gunned down in Malaysia. (AP)
Updated 21 April 2018
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Hamas says man gunned down in Malaysia was important member

GAZA CITY, Gaza: Gaza's ruling Hamas militant group said Saturday that a man who was gunned down in Malaysia was an important member of the organization, raising suspicions that Israel was behind the brazen killing.
Hamas said Palestinian engineer Fadi al-Batsh was a "loyal" member and a "scientist of Palestine's youth scholars." It gave no further details on his scientific accomplishments but said he had made "important contributions" and participated in international forums in the field of energy.
Hamas stopped short of blaming Israel, saying only that he had been "assassinated by the hand of treachery." But relatives of al-Batsh said they believe Israel targeted him.
Malaysian police say the 36-year-old al-Batsh was gunned down early Saturday by two assailants who shot at least eight bullets from a motorbike as he was heading to a mosque for dawn prayers in Kuala Lampur. It said closed-circuit television showed him targeted by assassins who had waited for him for almost 20 minutes.
Besides his Hamas affiliation, al-Batsh was a cousin of Khaled al-Batsh, a senior official in the Islamic Jihad militant group, who accused the Israeli Mossad spy agency of the assassination, without providing evidence.
The Israeli government had no comment. But Israel has a long history of targeting wanted Palestinian militants in daring overseas operations around the globe.
Al-Batsh specialized in electrical and electronic engineering and worked at a Malaysian university. He had lived there with his family for the past eight years and was an imam at a local mosque.
He received his Ph.D degree from the University of Malaya in 2015 and was a senior lecturer at the British Malaysian Institute. His official biography said his research interests included power converters, power quality and renewable energy.
However, Israeli media reported that he was also deeply involved in the Hamas drone development project.
Israel and Hamas are bitter foes who have fought three wars since 2008. Tensions have risen in recent weeks with a series of mass protests along the Gaza border in which 32 Palestinians have been shot dead by Israeli troops since late March.
Hamas says the protests are aimed at breaking a crippling border blockade that was imposed by Israel and Egypt after the Islamic militant group overran Gaza in 2007, a year after winning Palestinian parliament elections. It says it also aims to assert the right of refugees to return to their former homes in Israel.
Israel accuses Hamas, which is sworn to Israel's destruction and has carried out dozens of deadly suicide bombings against it, of cynically exploiting Gaza civilians for its political aims by staging the protests and trying to carry out attacks under their cover. Despite accusations of using lethal force against unarmed protesters, Israel says it is only targeting instigators who are trying to damage the border fence with explosives, firebombs and other means.
Protests are aiming to culminate in a large border march on May 15, the 70th anniversary of Israel founding. The date is mourned by Palestinians as their "nakba,"or catastrophe, when hundreds of thousands were uprooted in the 1948 Mideast war over Israel's creation.


Syria’s key border crossings with 2 neighbors reopen

Updated 56 min 28 sec ago
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Syria’s key border crossings with 2 neighbors reopen

  • The reopening of the crossings is a major boost to the Syrian, restoring commercial lifeline to the outside world
  • Arab countries have boycotted the Syrian government since the early days of the war

QUNEITRA, Syria: A vital border crossing between Jordan and Syria reopened on Monday for the first time in three years, promising to restore trade and movement between the two countries that had halted because of the war. Another crossing, between Syria and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, also reopened for UN observers who had left the area four years ago because of fighting there.
The reopening of the crossings is a major boost to the Syrian government of President Bashar Assad, restoring a commercial lifeline to the outside world. It also reinforces the Syrian government’s message that it is slowly emerging victorious from the seven-year conflict.
The Syrian flag was raised at the Quneitra crossing between Syria and the Israeli-held Golan.
UN observers and local notables from the Druze community, the predominant population in the area, gathered near the crossing. The UN observers had left the Quneitra crossing in 2014 for the first time since deploying there in 1974 to monitor a cease-fire and a demilitarized zone. Israel occupied the Golan Heights in 1967.
“It is a day of victory,” Youssef Jarbou, a Druze leader, told the Syrian Al-Ikhbariya TV from Quneitra.
Syrian forces recaptured the Quneitra area in July. Russian military police deployed in the area, including on the edge of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, setting up checkpoints in the area. Moscow said it planned to work closely with the UN force.
Meanwhile, at the Naseeb crossing between Syria and Jordan, dozens of private cars lined up to cross from Jordan. Security personnel and dogs searched the vehicles.
“Today is a feast, a feast for the whole Arab and Islamic nations and for the whole World, this crossing is vital for the whole Arab countries,” said Mohammed Khalil, the first Syrian in line waiting to cross back into his country.
Naseeb’s reopening would bring major financial relief to Assad’s government by restoring a much-needed gateway for Syrian exports to Arab countries. The resumption of commercial trade through the crossing will also be a diplomatic victory for Assad, whose government has been isolated from its Arab neighbors since the war began in 2011.
Arab countries have boycotted the Syrian government since the early days of the war, freezing its membership in the 22-member state Arab League.
“The Naseeb crossing is a vital lifeline for trade between the two brotherly countries Jordan and Syria through them to other Arab countries,” Jordan government spokeswoman Jumana Ghunaimat said.
Syrian rebels seized the crossing in 2015, disrupting a major trade route between Syria and Jordan, Lebanon and oil-rich Gulf countries.
Syrian government troops recaptured it in July, after rebels reached an agreement with Russian mediators to end the violence in the southern province of Daraa and surrender the crossing.
The crossing is also vital for Syria’s neighbor Lebanon, providing its agricultural products a route to foreign markets.
The recapture of Naseeb marked a major victory for Assad’s forces, which have been on a winning streak since 2015 when Russia threw its military weight behind Damascus. The victory in southern Syria signaled the return of his forces to Daraa province where the uprising against him began seven years ago.