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Israel kills commander in third day of attacks on Hamas

Special to World
Tuesday, February 18, 2003

TEL AVIV Israel continued its offensive against Hamas. Israeli special forces shot and killed Riyad Abu Zeid on Monday in the northern Gaza Strip. Abu Zeid, 32, was regarded as the successor to the head of Hamas's Izzedin Kassam military wing.

Abu Zeid was shot and critically wounded and died about an hour later.

He was said to have succeeded Mohammed Deif, who was blinded in an Israeli assassination attempt last year.

"In the past few months, Zeid was involved in the planning and guidance of terror attacks against Israeli targets in the Gaza Strip, as well as suicide bombings inside Israeli cities," an Israeli military statement said.

On Tuesday, Israeli and Palestinian sources reported the death of Hamas commander Mohammed Nur in southern West Bank town of Yatta. Nur was said to have directed ambushes of Israeli civilians and soldiers in the Hebron area. It was the third straight day of Israeli operations against Hamas. In the southern Gaza Strip town of Rafah, Israeli forces captured suspected insurgents and destroyed a weapons factory.

"The crime against our fighters will not pass without punishment from Hamas and the Palestinian people," Hamas spokesman Abdul Aziz Al Rentisi said.

Hamas also accused Israel of engineering an explosion in which six of its members were killed as they were unloading an attack unmanned air vehicle. One of those killed was identified as another aide of Deif.

Israeli officials denied the Hamas accusation. But they termed Hamas's UAV project as a significant development.

"I think all of us would know what would be the significance that carries explosives and carried out against Israeli citizens," Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said.

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