Two Palestinians were found dead in an apartment in Algeria yesterday, with mixed reports as to the cause of their deaths.
The pair, who were originally from Khan Yunis in the besieged Gaza Strip, have been named as 34-year-old Suliman Al-Farra and 35-year-old Mohammed Albana. One was working as a doctor and the other as a scientific researcher, with both believed to have been studying in Algeria.
Their bodies were found in Al-Farra’s apartment in Zeralda, a suburb of the Algerian capital Algiers. Haaretz reported that their families “were trying to locate the men and called on Palestinians in Algeria for help. They broke into the apartment where both men were found dead.” Other sources have maintained that the pair were discovered accidentally; Palestine News Network quoted Gazan news agencies as saying “the death occurred two days ago and was discovered by incident on Sunday evening after the neighbours smelled gas in the building.”
Reports as to the cause of their deaths have been mixed, with several news outlets initially reporting that the pair had been assassinated. Ynet reported that the pair “died of strangulation or electrocution,” while the New Arab reported that the uncertainty around their deaths “spark[ed] speculation they may have been murdered by Israeli spy agencies, which have a record of targeting Palestinians abroad.”
However, Palestinian Ambassador to Algeria, Loai Issa, told Wafa that initial investigation into their deaths showed they died of suffocation from a gas leak in their apartment and there “was no criminal wrongdoing.” Issa added that “an autopsy will be conducted on the bodies on Monday to ascertain the cause of death.”
The speculation is likely inspired by the assassination in April of Palestinian engineer and lecturer, Fadi Mohammed Al-Batsh. Al-Batsh was shot dead by two gunmen on a high-powered motorcade near his home in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, killing him instantly. Although Israel initially denied reports of its involvement, Israeli media reported that “it is natural to attribute the assassination of Fadi Al-Batsh to Mossad” given the similarity between that and previous Mossad missions. Al-Batsh’s body was repatriated to Gaza with the help of the Egyptian authorities.
Mossad, Israel’s national intelligence agency, is known to operate across several countries and has been involved in a number of secretive missions. Earlier this month, reports surfaced claiming that Mossad had foiled more than 160 assassination attempts against former and current Arab leaders. The Kurdish journalist in Israel responsible for the revelation, Mahdi Majeed, said that he would soon reveal classified documents “related to the Arab countries in general and the Gulf in particular.”
In June, head of Mossad, Yossi Cohen, boasted that “Mossad has relations with countries that do not have diplomatic relations with Israel […] We have to work, come in, come out and do whatever we have to do.” Mossad forms one arm of Israel’s intelligence apparatus, and often works in collaboration with Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security agency sometimes known as Shabak, and Aman, the military intelligence wing attached to the IDF.