Vows to Kill Palestinian Militant Leaders||
Israeli government announced Tuesday that it will seek out and kill all leaders
in the Palestinian militant group Hamas, without waiting for another terror attack.
This follows the assassination of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the founder of Hamas.
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Ahmed Yassin, who founded Hamas in 1987 and is said to have masterminded scores
of suicide attacks, was killed by a helicopter strike as he left a Gaza City mosque
Monday. A quadriplegic
since an accident at age 12, the wheelchair-bound spiritual leader rarely left
Yassin had refused to recognize or negotiate with Israel.
believe completely that Israel will vanish, and we Palestinians will recover the
lands and homes that were stolen from us in 1948," he told The New York Times
in September 2000.
By killing Yassin, Israel
hopes to destroy the foundations of Hamas and prevent other Palestinians from
joining militant organizations.
"Anyone who is involved in terrorism
in Gaza or the West Bank
knows after [Yassin's] assassination that no one
is immune," said Israel's police minister, Tzahi Hanegbi.
is the largest Palestinian militant Islamist organization. It was created at the
beginning of the first intifada -- the Palestinian uprising against Israel's occupation
in the West Bank and Gaza.
Israel and many Western countries consider Hamas
a terrorist organization, while Hamas supporters see the group as a legitimate
force that defends the rights of Palestinians.
Hamas' short-term goal is
to drive Israel out of the occupied territories. The group's long-term goal is
to establish an Islamic state on all of historic Palestine, an area that has been
inside the borders of Israel since the Jewish state was created in 1948.
achieve its goals, Hamas has used violent means such as suicide bombings and armed
assaults that have killed hundreds and wounded thousands of Israelis, including
Hamas also has a political branch that operates social programs
such as building schools, hospitals and religious institutions in areas where
there is rampant unemployment and poverty.
reaction to assassination policy|
Israel defends its right to target individuals who it sees as a threat to Israeli
security, the policy of killing militant leaders has drawn international criticism.
European Union foreign ministers condemned Yassin's assassination, calling
it an "extra-judicial killing."
"All of us understand Israel's
need to defend itself against terrorism which affects it -- within international
law," said British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw. But he condemned the killing.
"It is unacceptable, unjust and very unlikely to achieve [Israel's] objectives."
rights groups have decried the tactic, citing the many innocent bystanders that
are also killed in such attacks. At least seven other people died in the Yassin
Israeli officials have justified the policy by referencing the actions
of the United States. Following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, President Bush
effectively lifted a 25-year U.S. ban on foreign assassinations to allow the Central
Intelligence Agency to target the elusive al-Qaida chief, Osama bin Laden, and
Reacting to the Yassin assassination, President Bush
cited Israel's right to self-defense but reminded its leadership to consider the
consequences of its actions.
"Israel has the right to defend herself
from terror, and as she does so, I hope she keeps consequences in mind as to how
to make sure we stay on the path to peace," Mr. Bush said.
of Hamas |
the assassination, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians marched in Yassin's funeral
procession as Hamas leaders promised retaliation for the attack.
that spokesman Abdel Aziz Rantisi would replace Yassin in the Gaza Strip. Trained
as a medical doctor, Rantisi is one of the original founders of Hamas and considered
Rantisi reacted strongly to the assassination, saying Israel
had "opened the gates of hell."
will be unified in the trenches of resistance. We will not surrender, we will
never surrender to Israeli terror," Rantisi told the Associated Press.
main leader will be Khaled Mashaal, who oversees Hamas' political bureau from
exile in Syria.
Mashaal said Hamas' military wing would now assess the feasibility
of killing Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
"I hope that the holy
warriors can retaliate against this awful crime by targeting the most prominent
Zionist leaders ... including Sharon," Mashaal said in an interview posted
on a Hamas Web site. "I hope they can succeed."
had made veiled threats against the United States for supporting the Israeli government,
Rantisi said Wednesday that its militant activities were aimed solely at Israel.
are inside Palestinian land and acting only inside Palestinian land. We are resisting
the occupation, nothing else," Rantisi said. "Our resistance will continue
just inside our border, here inside our country."
Annie Schleicher, Online NewsHour