Middle East

Hamas accuses Israel of killing its Tunisian drone expert

Members of the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, take part in a rally marking the 29th anniversary of the creation of the movement on December 16, 2016. Image copyright AFP
Image caption Hamas claims one of its drone experts, a Tunisian, has been murdered by Israel

The Palestinian militant group Hamas has blamed Israel for the death of a Tunisian national it described as one of its drone experts.

Mohamed Zaouari, 49, was shot dead at the wheel of his car outside his home in Tunisia's second city, Sfax, on Thursday.

The Qassam Brigades, Hamas's armed wing, said he had worked for the "resistance" for 10 years.

It declared a day of mourning and vowed to avenge Mohamed Zaouari's death.

Israel has not responded to the claims.

"Qassam Brigades mourns the martyr of Palestine, martyr of the Arab and Muslim nation, the Qassam leader, engineer and pilot Mohamed Zaouari, who was assassinated by Zionist treacherous hands on Thursday in Sfax," a statement posted on the group's website said.

"The enemy must know the blood of the leader Zaouari will not go in vain," the statement added.

Hamas, which is in control of the Gaza Strip, does not recognise Israel's right to exist, and there have been years of conflict between the two sides.

It has occasionally sent drones across the border into Israel but these have either crashed or been shot down.

'Riddled with bullets'

Tunisia's interior ministry said a Tunisian woman had been arrested at Tunis airport, on suspicion of involvement in the murder.

It said that four rental vehicles had been seized, along with two guns equipped with silencers.

Deputy prosecutor general Mourad Turki told the private radio station Shems FM that the arrested woman was a journalist who had previously interviewed the victim.

He added that eight Tunisian suspects had been detained, and two others were still at large.

Image copyright FETHI BELAID/AFP/Getty Images
Image caption A woman was arrested in connection with the murder at Carthage airport in Tunisia's capital

Mohamed Zaouari has been buried in Sfax. Private radio station Mosaique FM reported that his body was riddled with 20 bullets.

Hamas has offered no proof of its claims that Israel was behind the murder, but the country is believed to have assassinated members of militant groups abroad in the past.

In 1997, agents from the Israeli spy agency Mossad conducted a failed bid to kill Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal in Jordan by spraying poison into his ear.

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

Israel has never confirmed or denied involvement in his killing.

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