Hamas says Israel killed its drone expert in Tunisia

File: AFP
File: AFP

Gaza City - Palestinian Islamist group Hamas said Saturday a Tunisian engineer murdered in the North African country was one of its leaders, accused Israel of the killing and vowed to avenge him.

Mohamed Zaouari, a 49-year-old engineer, was murdered at the wheel of his car outside his house in Tunisia's second city, Sfax, on Thursday.

Al-Qassam Martyrs Brigade, the armed wing of Hamas that controls the Gaza Strip, told AFP on Saturday that drone expert Zaouari was killed by "Zionist treachery", referring to Israel.

It said Zaouari had worked for the "resistance" for 10 years, and announced a day of mourning.

"Zaouari's assassination in Tunisia is aggression against the resistance, and Al-Qassam Brigades and the enemy should know that the blood of the leaders will not be wasted and lost in vain," it said in a separate statement.

Tunisia's Islamist Ennahdha movement has called for an investigation into the killing, which it said posed a threat to the country's stability.

The interior ministry said Saturday a Tunisian woman had been arrested the previous evening at the capital's Carthage airport, suspected of involvement in the murder.

She was a journalist arriving from Hungary who had previously interviewed the victim, deputy prosecutor general Mourad Turki told the private radion station Shems FM.

A total of "eight suspects have been arrested and they are all Tunisians", he added.

Four vehicles have been seized, along with two guns equipped with silencers, the interior ministry said.

Private radio station Mosaique FM reported that Zaouari's body was riddled with 20 bullets.

He was buried on Saturday in Sfax, media in Tunisia reported.

Israel has ignored the Hamas allegation, despite its record of assassinating members of militant groups abroad, including in Tunisia.

In 1988, the head of the Palestine Liberation Organisation military wing Khalil al-Wazir, better known as Abu Jihad, was killed by Israeli commandos in Tunisia with another senior PLO figure, Saad Sayil.

Agents from the Jewish state's spy agency Mossad failed in 1997 in an attempt to kill Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal in Jordan with poison.

Mossad is also believed to have been behind the 2010 murder of top Hamas militant Mahmud al-Mabhuh in a Dubai hotel.

And Imad Mughniyeh, a top operative with Lebanon's Shiite group Hezbollah, was killed in Damascus in a 2008 bombing that drew immediate threats of retaliation against Israel.

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