Israel kills Hamas commander

Special to World
Sunday, May 30, 2004

GAZA CITY Israel has assassinated the commander of Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Israeli and Palestinian sources said an Israeli attack helicopter fired a missile that killed the Hamas commander and his deputy. The sources said both were riding a motorcycle in Gaza City when they were killed on early Sunday. A passerby, also said to be a Hamas member, was also killed and seven others were injured in the attack.

The commander was identified as Wa'il Nasser. Nasser was said to have headed Hamas's military wing in the Gaza Strip and was responsible for the development and production of Kassam-class short-range missiles.

Nasser's deputy, Mohammed Sarsour, was also killed in the Israeli strike. Both Sarsour and Nasser were said to have directed a series of suicide strikes against Israeli civilian targets, including the bombing of a Tel Aviv bar in 2003.

The Israeli operation came hours before Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was scheduled to convene the Cabinet to vote on his plan for a unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank. Under the plan, the withdrawal would take place in four stages, each of which would require Cabinet approval.

So far, Sharon appeared to lack a Cabinet majority for the plan. Finance Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and several other Likud ministers were said to have objected to the proposal.

The plan also called for the establishment of a seven-member ministerial committee to draft details of any withdrawal. Four of the members would include Sharon and his leading allies in the government -- Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz and minister Gideon Ezra.

Analysts said the committee could also determine a range of strategic issues without full Cabinet approval. This could include the introduction of foreign troops in either the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the withdrawal from the Egyptian-Gaza border as well as support for Palestinian security forces.

Israeli officials said Egypt has pledged to train and restructure the Palestinian security forces. They said an Egyptian security delegation could arrive in June to launch the effort.

Under the plan, the panel could also decide whether to transfer Israeli military facilities in the Gaza Strip to the Palestinian Authority. The committee would also be responsible for deciding the route of the security fence along the West Bank.

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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