Israel has assassinated a leading Hamas operative based in
Izzedin Subhi Sheik Khalil, 42, was killed by a bomb that destroyed his
car in Damascus on Sunday. This was the first time a Hamas leader was
assassinated in the Syrian capital.
The Palestinian Media Center said the car bombing took place in the Al
Zahraa district in Damascus at 10:45 a.m. Khalil was rushed to the hospital
where he later died, Middle East Newsline reported.
Israeli officials acknowledged their government's responsibility for the
assassination and said this constituted a Mossad operation. They said Syria
has been the main source of money and orders for Hamas operatives in the
West Bank and Gaza Strip.
"Syria is responsible for terrorism against us and will not be immune to
our counter-terrorism activities," Deputy Defense Minister Zev Boim said.
Hamas blamed Israel for the attack, the third time a leader of the
organization was killed in 2004. Palestinian sources said Hamas had been
bracing for an Israeli strike in Damascus in wake of the Aug. 31 double
suicide bombings in Beersheba. Sixteen Israelis were killed in the strikes
and Khalil was said to have ordered the suicide bombings.
On Monday, the Kuwaiti daily Al Rai Al Aam quoted Palestinian sources in
Damascus as saying that the explosives used in the car bombing were smuggled
into Syria from neighboring Iraq. Israel's Mossad has been accused by Arab
states of maintaining a presence in the Kurdish areas of northern Iraq.
"Anybody who strikes Israel or participates in murder, his blood is on his
head, whether he operates within or outside of Israel. We are not confirming
or denying this [assassination of Khalil]."
Khalil, who had maintained a low profile, was said to have been a
leading Hamas military operative. Deported by Israel from the Gaza Strip in
1994, Khalil moved to Damascus where he became a liasion with Hamas in the
Gaza Strip and helped plan a series of major attacks. He was also said to
have been a major coordinator of the smuggling of weapons from Egypt to the
Hamas has vowed revenge on Israel. A Hamas spokesman in the Gaza Strip
said the Islamic insurgency movement would strike Israeli interests abroad.
Later, Hamas representative in Lebanon, Osama Hamdan, denied that any
attacks outside Israel and the Palestinian Authority were being planned.
"The Zionist enemy has opened a new door for the struggle by
transferring the battle outside the land of Palestine, despite the fact that
we in Hamas insisted on keeping our weapons against the enemy in the land
which they occupied and we left hundreds of thousands of Zionists alone
outside of the country," the Hamas statement said. "By today's action, the
Zionist enemy should shoulder the consequences of what it did."
On Sept. 24, the London-based Al Hayat daily reported that an
unidentified Arab country had relayed to the Mossad information on
Hamas plots. The newspaper said the Arab country also provided details on
Hamas's leadership around the Middle East.
Last week, Syria was said to have closed the offices of Palestinian
insurgency groups in Damascus, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
Palestinian sources said the insurgency groups were discussing transferring
the offices to other Arab countries, including Bahrain, Qatar or Tunisia.
Syria withheld comment for nine hours before responding to Sunday's
attack. The Syrian Arab News Agency called the assassination of Khalil a
For their part, Israel officials said the death of Khalil was meant to
change the balance of power with Hamas. They did
not rule out that other elements were involved in the assassination, which
had been discussed for more than a year within the Israeli intelligence
"I don't know whether this operation was that of the Mossad or another
intelligence body," Israeli Health Minister Danny Naveh said. "The Israeli
officialdom is not taking responsibility."
In 1997, Israel's Mossad attempted to assassinate Hamas political bureau
chief Khaled Mashaal in Amman. Jordanian authorities captured two Mossad
agents and forced Israel to provide the antidote for the poison injected