Hamas Closes Gaza Borders as Manhunt Begins for Israeli Assassins

The death of Hamas’ political leader, Mazen Faqeh, has sparked outrage across the Gaza Strip, which has since been put on lockdown by the ruling Islamist group, Hamas. A complete shutdown of borders by the Israelis as well as a media blackout immediately ensued. Faqeh was an important political figure who was imprisoned in 2003 for an alleged terror plot but was eventually freed almost a decade later under the condition that he had to relocate from the West Bank to Gaza. Six years since his release, he has been mysteriously killed, with no official Israeli source claiming responsibility. The intentional closing of borders is very rarely done in Gaza, only during times of severe internal strife. Khaled Meshal, leader of Hamas’ political wing, justified the move by saying, “Israel decided to change the rules of the game, and we accept the challenge.” Hamas has claimed that Israeli Mossad agents are responsible, having secretly snuck into the city with gun-silencers to assassinate Faqeh. After five days of lockdown at the Erez crossing, Hamas loosened the restrictions that previously denied all men under the age of 45.

The Erez crossing is one of the only ways to leave Gaza and the only exit controlled by Palestinians. The Egyptian crossing is almost always closed, apart from special occasions during the year. The Erez crossing is particularly important because it is the main exit point for Gazans seeking emergency medical treatment, as well as the entrance point for aid workers and foreign journalists.

This attack is of particular importance due to the method in which Faqeh was killed. His wounds suggest he was shot at close range with a pistol, meaning an assassin had to have physically entered Gaza with the intention of murdering him. Political killings are all too common in the Gaza Strip, but this would be the first killing since 2005 in which an Israeli agent physically entered the area to carry out an attack.

Faqeh’s wife, along with Gazan civilians, have expressed shock and fear because of the killing. She said, “I couldn’t believe it at all. It was a shock, he received death threats all the time since his release in 2011, but he never paid any attention to it.”

This political killing has left Gazans in a state of fearful uncertainty at what is to come. The incident may come to represent the first of many hostilities as Hamas and Israel edge closer to war once again.

Erez crossing, one of the paths for Gazans to leave the Gaza Strip in cases of dire medical emergencies