GAZA CITY, Palestinian Territories (AFP) – Palestinians in Gaza are to hold a “state funeral” for a murdered Italian activist, Hamas said on Sunday, adding it was close to arresting all those involved in his death.
Hamas foreign affairs and planning minister Mohammed Awad told reporters that slain activist Vittorio Arrigoni’s body would be moved to Egypt via the Rafah border crossing on Monday after a funeral in Gaza.
“We’re waiting for his friends and relatives to arrive in Gaza. Some are already here but there are others we are waiting for, and then there will be a state funeral,” Awad said.
“We expect afterwards that his body will be taken to the Rafah crossing and then on to Cairo, according to the wishes of his family.”
Hamas officials said Arrigoni’s girlfriend was already in Gaza, and his mother told Israeli media that she too planned to visit the coastal territory to see where her son “lived and died.”
In an interview with the Israeli news site YNet, Egidia Beretta said her son had embraced life in the Gaza Strip.
“Vittorio spoke a lot about Gaza and now he’s gone. I plan to visit the Gaza Strip in the future. I want to see where my son lived and died, to see what he spoke of and for what cause he sacrificed his life,” she told the news site.
Arrigoni was found hanged in an abandoned house in the north of the Gaza Strip on Friday morning, hours after he was kidnapped by a fringe, radical Salafist group.
Security forces of the Islamist movement Hamas which rules Gaza have arrested four people in connection with his murder, but Awad said some suspects remained at large in the coastal strip.
“Some suspects have been arrested but there are still some people with ties to the operation in the Gaza Strip,” he said.
Hamas security officials on Sunday named three suspects they were hunting as Bilal al-Omari, Abdul-Rahman al-Birizit — a Jordanian — and Mohammed al-Salfiti, himself a Hamas policeman.
Awad said Hamas expected to arrest all those linked to the killing “shortly” and that security forces had set up roadblocks to ensure those tied to Arrigoni’s death could not slip out of Gaza.
Arrigoni, 36, was a long-time member of the International Solidarity Movement, a pro-Palestinian organisation, and had been living and working in the Gaza Strip for much of the past three years.
His kidnapping was the first of a foreigner in the Gaza Strip since the 2007 abduction of BBC journalist Alan Johnston, who was later released unharmed.
Hamas has vowed to bring Arrigoni’s killers to justice, and Awad said on Sunday that the group planned to rename a street in Gaza City in the activist’s honour.