GAZA CITY: Hamas shut the crossing between the Gaza Strip and Israel on Sunday after blaming the Jewish state for the assassination of one of its officials in the Palestinian enclave. The interior ministry in Gaza, run by Islamist movement Hamas, said it was shutting the Erez crossing for an indefinite period as it investigates Friday’s murder.

It did not give details on the reason behind the closure, though there was speculation authorities may be seeking to prevent those responsible for the killing from leaving. Hamas security forces were deployed along the Gazan borders and exits by sea were also banned, officials said.

Hamas officials have blamed the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad and its “collaborators” for the killing of Mazen Faqha, 38, who was shot dead by unknown gunmen. He was killed by four bullets from a pistol equipped with a silencer. Israel has not commented on the shooting.

According to Israeli media, Faqha was responsible for cells of Hamas’s military wing, the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. On Sunday, Faqha’s wife, Nahed Assida, called on “Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip to respond to this assassination.” “The price of my husband’s blood is in your hands,” she said during a women’s conference in Gaza.

Faqha’s funeral on Saturday drew thousands of Hamas supporters into the streets with chants of “revenge” and “death to Israel.” Ismail Haniya, until recently head of Hamas in Gaza, and Yahya Sinwar, who replaced him as leader, headed the procession.

According to Hamas, Faqha formed cells for the Islamist group’s military wing in the West Bank cities of Tubas, also where he was born, and Jenin. It said he played an important role in preparing two major attacks. They included a suicide attack in the Israeli settlement neighbourhood of Gilo in east Jerusalem in 2002 that killed 19 people.