While members of the terrorist organization blamed Israel's Mossad for the Damascus assassination, other Hamas members claimed that Bashar Assad's forces were behind the hit.
The main reasoning for this hypothesis is that the method of the assassination does not fit the Mossad's MOs. Arab media reported that Ranaja suffered a particularly brutal death.
According to the report, assassins broke into his apartment, interrogated him under torture and the murdered him. The assassins then cut off his head, placed the severed body parts in a closet and set the apartment on fire – not forgetting to take away with them some secret documents.
"The Mossad would have killed him differently, this was not its MO," said Mohamed Hifawi, a member of the Local Coordination Committees (LLC) in Syria on behalf of Hamas. "Israeli assassins would have done it quicker and cleaner and would not have wasted time needlessly abusing the body."
"The way the body was mutilated and the attempt to burn the house are all methods that point to the involvement of the (Syrian) security forces," he told AFP.
In a message to the French news agency, Hifawi mentioned other details which support his supposition. "He was visiting Syria and nobody knew he was in the country apart from the security services who gave him permission to enter.
"He arrived at an apartment in a neighborhood in Qudsaya which was under a curfew and could only be accessed by the security forces and the regime's thugs."
Israeli experts agreed:
Former senior Mossad member Rami Igra said, “Practically, it’s not reasonable that Israel or a Western country would settle accounts with a man like this, at this stage, in Syria. He’s not big enough.
“He’s not important enough. To assassinate him would be a very complicated, dangerous operation, and it would be taking a huge chance. I don’t see Israel or any Western country willing to take this risk,” Igra said, noting the unstable Syrian situation.
On the other hand, “it would not be a problem for any gang in Damascus, maybe one working for Assad, to do this,” Igra added. “With certainty I can say, it was not Israel.”
Dr. Ely Karmon, a senior terrorism expert from the Interdisciplinary Center’s Institute for Counter-Terrorism, agreed.
He said the most likely entity behind the killing was the Syrian regime, since Ranaja may well have been “involved in smuggling weapons to the Syrian opposition,” particularly to the Muslim Brotherhood.
“If he really was an aide to Mabhouh,” Karmon said, referring to reports that Ranaja was the aide of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, the late Hamas arms smuggler assassinated in Dubai, “then he had connections to weapons smuggling.”
“The Muslim Brotherhood is in a state of crisis with the regime. There is a reasonable chance that he provided arms to the opposition,” Karmon added.
A second possibility is that Hamas itself killed Ranaja after suspecting him of pocketing cash given to him to pay for weapons, ships and smuggling teams.
“We saw this happen with Fatah, when Arafat killed his own operatives in Europe for stealing cash,” Karmon noted.