While not taking credit for the elimination of top Hamas terrorist Kamal Hussein Ranaja in Syria Wednesday, Defense Minister Ehud Barak did not rule out Israel as a possible assailant. Speaking to Army Radio, Barak said that Ranaja who was “not of the righteous of the generation,” got what he deserved.
Hamas has accused Israel of being behind Ranaja's elimination. In a statement Wednesday, Hamas said that “according to our information, Mossad was behind the assassination” of Ranaja in a Damascus suburb Wednesday. “A group of people entered his home in Qudsaya ... where he was liquidated,” a senior Hamas terrorist was quoted as saying, adding that the elimination resembled that of Mahmoud Al-Mabhouh, a senior Hamas member who was found dead in a Dubai hotel room in 2010. Ranaja was one of Al-Mabhouh's deputies. Mabhouh’s death was widely blamed on Israel's Mossad spy agency, which never confirmed or denied involvement.
Despite previously being close allies, there has been a rift between Hamas and the Syrian regime ever since the uprising against President Bashar Assad began. Reports surfaced as early as last May that Hamas is moving its headquarters from Damascus to Egypt and the terror group is strengthening itself in the Sinai. When asked about rumors that it was Assad's forces who eliminated Ranajah, Barak said that “it is certainly possible that others were trying to get Ranaja.”
Israel, however, had enough reason to want to see Ranaja removed. One of Hamas' most senior terrorists, Ranaja was actively involved in the movement of weapons from Iran to Lebanon, supplying Hizbullah with weapons for use against Israel. He was also involved in planning terror attacks against Israelis at home and abroad, the IDF said. Ranaja is to be buried in Jordan, not Syria.
Asked about the prospects for continued rule for Syrian Presidenr Bashar al-Assad, Barak said in the interview that Assad was quickly losing control over the country. “We hear about defections from his army daily, and armed gangs are getting bolder and more willing to attack sensitive sites and army bases. The rebels control significant sections of the country.” Barak said that while Assad was surviving longer than he had expected, “he is continually getting weaker,” and that it was just a matter of time before he was removed, or resigned himself, as Syrian leader.