Israel responds to intelligence alert, kills new Hamas leader

SPECIAL TO WORLD TRIBUNE.COM
Sunday, April 18, 2004

GAZA CITY Israel has assassinated the new leader of Hamas after intelligence reports pinpointed his location.

An Israeli AH-64A Apache helicopter fired at least two missiles toward a vehicle that contained Hamas leader Abdul Aziz Rantisi. Rantisi, 57, and his two bodyguards were killed and his son was injured in the Israeli strike on late Saturday.

"This was an operation that involved both Humint and Sigint," Knesset member Danny Yatom, a former Mossad director, said. "There's no question that there was an intelligence network that provided an alert the minute he [Rantisi] made a mistake."



Israeli officials said authorities have been on high alert for Hamas retaliation since the assassination of Yassin, Middle East Newsline reported. They said authorities were bracing for simultaneous suicide bombing attacks on several Israeli civilian targets.

It was the second time in less than a month that Israel killed a Hamas leader. The first assassination was that of Hamas founder Ahmed Yassin on March 22.

Rantisi, who survived an Israeli attack in June 2003, was said to have shared leadership of Hamas with Khaled Masha'al, chief of the political bureau and based in Damascus. Masha'al, himself, survived an Israeli assassination attempt in 1997 in Amman, Jordan.

"They have chosen a successor to the martyr Abdul Aziz Rantisi," Masha'al said. "But they will not publicize his name. They will not publicize his name. They will not publicize his name."

[In Washington, the State Department termed Hamas a terrorist group, but urged Israel to consider the consequences of its actions. The department reaffirmed Israel's right to defend itself.]

Prospective Hamas caretakers were said to include Rantisi's deputy, Mahmoud A-Zahar, as well as Ismail Haniya and Said Sayam. Hamas sources said the movement's military chief, Mohammed Deif, would be brought into the political leadership.

"We have alerted all of our combat cells until the 100 revenge attacks, which will shake the criminal entity [Israel], are completed," Hamas's Izzedin Kassam said in a statement.

On early Sunday, a Palestinian insurgent infiltrated the Israeli community of Netsarim, south of Gaza City. Earlier, a Palestinian insurgent blew himself up at the Erez border terminal in the northern Gaza Strip, killing an Israeli police officer and injuring three others.


Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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