GAZA CITY, Jan 29, 2010 (AFP) - The Islamist Hamas movement blamed Israel on Friday for the death in Dubai earlier this month of one of the founders of its military wing, Mahmud Abdel Rauf al-Mabhuh.
"Mabhuh died a martyr in Dubai on January 20, 2010 in suspect circumstances that require an inquiry in cooperation with the United Arab Emirates authorities," Hamas said in a statement released in its Gaza stronghold.
"We hold Israel responsible for the assassination of our brother and leader," the statement said, adding Hamas would "retaliate for this Zionist crime at the appropriate moment."
There was no immediate Israeli reaction to the allegation, which gave no details on exactly how he died.
In Damascus, where Hamas has its leadership in exile, politburo member Izzat al-Rishq also accused Israel of assassinating Mabhuh in a statement posted on the group's website.
Born in the Jabaliya refugee camp in the north of the Gaza Strip, Mabhuh was one of the founders of Hamas's Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades armed wing. He was 50 at the time of his death.
Hamas said Mabhuh was behind the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers in 1989 during the early stages of the first 1987-1993 Palestinian uprising. They were both later killed.
He also masterminded a number of other attacks on Israeli targets.
Israeli authorities demolished his home in Gaza for those attacks.
He spent several spells in Israeli custody. After his last release, "he spent his life being hounded by the Zionist occupier until he succeeded in leaving the Gaza Strip," Hamas said.
"Our brother had been a target for the occupier ever since his participation in the kidnapping operation against the two Zionist soldiers, and for his role and support for the resistance."