Israel kills Hamas operations chief

Special to World
Monday, August 25, 2003

GAZA CITY Israel has assassinated a Palestinian identified as the operations chief of Hamas.

Israeli AH-64A attack helicopters fired three missiles toward a car in Gaza City on late Sunday that killed four suspected Hamas members. One of them, the target of the operation, was identified as Ahmed Shtiwi, the operations chief of the Islamic insurgency group.

It was the second senior Hamas operative killed in an Israeli operation in three days. On Thursday, Israeli attack helicopters fired missiles that killed Ismail Abu Shanab, regarded as one of the top leaders of Hamas.

Shtiwi, 24, was described as a leader of a Hamas department that prepared mines, mortars and Kassam-class missiles. The Hamas mines were said to have destroyed at least three Merkava main battle tanks over the last two years in the Gaza Strip.

An Israeli military source said Shtiwi, a graduate of the Islamic University, was planning a double suicide bombing in Israel. The source said he became the operations chief of Hamas in 2002 and provided financing to operatives.

Hours later, Hamas gunners fired a mortar and anti-tank barrage against Israeli civilian communities in the Gaza Strip. Israeli military sources said seven mortars and two anti-tank rockets were fired in an attack in which nobody was injured.

Matan Vilnai, a Labor Party Knesset member and former deputy chief of staff, said the assassination of Shtiwi was major success against Hamas.

Vilnai, a leader of the opposition in parliament, said Shtiwi was a leading insurgency operative for Hamas and planned numerous attacks against Israel.

The Israeli strike took place about 200 meters from the headquarters of the Palestinian Authority Preventive Security Apparatus, directed by Security Affairs Minister Mohammed Dahlan. Dahlan has pledged to crack down on Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

On Sunday, PA officials said security forces sealed another tunnel that connect the Gaza Strip to Egypt's Sinai Peninsula. This was the fourth tunnel sealed by the PA over the weekend in an operation to stop the flow of weapons and insurgents from Egypt to the southernmost Gaza town of Rafah.

Israeli military sources said, however, that PA forces failed to blow up the tunnels.

On Monday, the Palestinian daily Al Quds reported that PA Chairman Yasser Arafat has appointed Jibril Rajoub as his security adviser and promoted him to brigadier general. Rajoub was dismissed by Arafat in 2002 after serving for eight years as chief of the PSA.

Rajoub is regarded as a leading rival of Dahlan. Arafat has foiled a recommendation by the ruling Fatah Central Committee to appoint Gen. Nasser Yusef as interior minister. The committee had urged that Yusef be given authority over all the PA security agencies, including those under Arafat's direct control.

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