GAZA CITY ø Israel has assassinated the commander of Hamas in the
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
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.