Christian warnings substantiated as Israel targets Hamas

Christian warnings substantiated as Israel targets Hamas

By staff writers
23 Mar 2004

-23/3/04

Warnings by Christian peace campaigners about the "War on Terror" appear to have been substantiated with the news that Israel will try to kill the entire leadership of Hamas.

After assassinating the founder of the Islamic militant group in a missile strike, security sources said in Jerusalem that the killing would not end there.

Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz met for five hours with heads of the various security branches to discuss the fallout from the assassination of Sheik Ahmed Yassin.

The security sources said it was decided to go after the entire Hamas leadership, without waiting for another attack by the militant group.

Christian peace campaigners have previously warned that the "War on Terror" could provide justification for regimes to target and kill terrorists.

A decision in principle on targeting top Hamas officials was first made last week by Israelís Cabinet, in response to a double suicide bombing on an Israeli seaport.

The security chiefs reaffirmed the Cabinet decision. They agreed to strike whenever an opportunity presents itself, the sources said.

Prime minister Ariel Sharon also said: ìThe war against terror has not ended and will continue day after day, everywhere.î

Sharon called Yassin the ìmastermind of Palestinian terrorî and a ìmass murderer who is among Israelís greatest enemiesî.

Israelís army chief suggested today that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah would eventually be assassinated by Israel.

The army chief, Lieut General Moshe Yaalon, was asked whether Arafat and Nasrallah would be next on the list.

ìI think that their (Arafatís and Nasrallahís) responses yesterday show that they understand that it is nearing them,î Yaalon said.

ìIn the long term, I hope that this will be a sign to all those who choose to hurt us that this will be their end,î Yaalon said.

Arafatís aides said the Palestinian leader was concerned he could now be in Israelís sights. Israelís Cabinet decided last year that Arafat should be ìremovedî, but never said whether this meant killing him and never acted on the decision.

Meanwhile Israeli tanks moved into northern Gaza after Palestinian fighters launched rocket attacks in retaliation for the death of Yassin in an Israeli air strike yesterday.

Palestinian fury boiled over in Gaza and the West Bank after the assassination, which threatened to catapult the 42-month conflict to a new level of violence.

Hundreds of thousands thronged the streets of Gaza City for Yassinís funeral procession. Hamas threatened punishing revenge attacks against Israel, also hinting for the first time that the United States could become a target for backing Israel.

Soon after Israeli helicopters fired missiles at the wheelchair-bound Yassin at daybreak as he left his neighbourhood mosque, killing him and six other people, militants began firing crude mortars and rockets at Jewish settlements in Gaza and towns just outside the fence, causing no casualties.

Witnesses said six Israeli tanks moved into northern Gaza last night, stopping in fields about 200 yards from the town of Beit Hanoun. The area is where militants set up the homemade rockets aimed at the Israeli town of Sderot.

Israeli military officials said the Israeli forces were there to prevent more rocket fire. In violence that followed the assassination, five other Palestinians were killed yesterday, four in clashes with Israeli troops and one while handling explosives.

Anticipating Hamas attempts at revenge, Israel closed off the West Bank and Gaza Strip, banning Palestinians from entering, and put its security forces on high alert.

Also, Hezbollah guerrillas fired anti-tank missiles and artillery rounds at Israeli troops along Israelís border with Lebanon, drawing Israeli return fire.

The missile strike dealt what could be the final blow to the stalled US-led ìroad mapî peace plan. It also angered Egypt and Jordan, two moderate Arab states whose tacit support Sharon needs for any unilateral withdrawal from Gaza.

Security chiefs are closely watching to see who fills the political vacuum caused by Yassinís death. At least initially, hardliner Abdel Aziz Rantisi, has emerged as a Hamas strongman. Rantisi, a 54-year-old paediatrician who escaped an Israeli assassination attempt last June, opposes even a temporary truce with Israel.

Outside the country, Israel stepped up security at embassies, consulates and other official offices. Israeli officials also advised various Jewish centres around the world to take precautions.

The assassination, which killed seven other people, received large support in Israel, despite the belief that it will spark more violence. The Yediot Ahronot daily published a poll showing 60% of Israelis thought that killing Yassin was the right thing to do, while 32% thought it was wrong.

-23/3/04

Warnings by Christian peace campaigners about the "War on Terror" appear to have been substantiated with the news that Israel will try to kill the entire leadership of Hamas.

After assassinating the founder of the Islamic militant group in a missile strike, security sources said in Jerusalem that the killing would not end there.

Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz met for five hours with heads of the various security branches to discuss the fallout from the assassination of Sheik Ahmed Yassin.

The security sources said it was decided to go after the entire Hamas leadership, without waiting for another attack by the militant group.

Christian peace campaigners have previously warned that the "War on Terror" could provide justification for regimes to target and kill terrorists.

A decision in principle on targeting top Hamas officials was first made last week by Israelís Cabinet, in response to a double suicide bombing on an Israeli seaport.

The security chiefs reaffirmed the Cabinet decision. They agreed to strike whenever an opportunity presents itself, the sources said.

Prime minister Ariel Sharon also said: ìThe war against terror has not ended and will continue day after day, everywhere.î

Sharon called Yassin the ìmastermind of Palestinian terrorî and a ìmass murderer who is among Israelís greatest enemiesî.

Israelís army chief suggested today that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah would eventually be assassinated by Israel.

The army chief, Lieut General Moshe Yaalon, was asked whether Arafat and Nasrallah would be next on the list.

ìI think that their (Arafatís and Nasrallahís) responses yesterday show that they understand that it is nearing them,î Yaalon said.

ìIn the long term, I hope that this will be a sign to all those who choose to hurt us that this will be their end,î Yaalon said.

Arafatís aides said the Palestinian leader was concerned he could now be in Israelís sights. Israelís Cabinet decided last year that Arafat should be ìremovedî, but never said whether this meant killing him and never acted on the decision.

Meanwhile Israeli tanks moved into northern Gaza after Palestinian fighters launched rocket attacks in retaliation for the death of Yassin in an Israeli air strike yesterday.

Palestinian fury boiled over in Gaza and the West Bank after the assassination, which threatened to catapult the 42-month conflict to a new level of violence.

Hundreds of thousands thronged the streets of Gaza City for Yassinís funeral procession. Hamas threatened punishing revenge attacks against Israel, also hinting for the first time that the United States could become a target for backing Israel.

Soon after Israeli helicopters fired missiles at the wheelchair-bound Yassin at daybreak as he left his neighbourhood mosque, killing him and six other people, militants began firing crude mortars and rockets at Jewish settlements in Gaza and towns just outside the fence, causing no casualties.

Witnesses said six Israeli tanks moved into northern Gaza last night, stopping in fields about 200 yards from the town of Beit Hanoun. The area is where militants set up the homemade rockets aimed at the Israeli town of Sderot.

Israeli military officials said the Israeli forces were there to prevent more rocket fire. In violence that followed the assassination, five other Palestinians were killed yesterday, four in clashes with Israeli troops and one while handling explosives.

Anticipating Hamas attempts at revenge, Israel closed off the West Bank and Gaza Strip, banning Palestinians from entering, and put its security forces on high alert.

Also, Hezbollah guerrillas fired anti-tank missiles and artillery rounds at Israeli troops along Israelís border with Lebanon, drawing Israeli return fire.

The missile strike dealt what could be the final blow to the stalled US-led ìroad mapî peace plan. It also angered Egypt and Jordan, two moderate Arab states whose tacit support Sharon needs for any unilateral withdrawal from Gaza.

Security chiefs are closely watching to see who fills the political vacuum caused by Yassinís death. At least initially, hardliner Abdel Aziz Rantisi, has emerged as a Hamas strongman. Rantisi, a 54-year-old paediatrician who escaped an Israeli assassination attempt last June, opposes even a temporary truce with Israel.

Outside the country, Israel stepped up security at embassies, consulates and other official offices. Israeli officials also advised various Jewish centres around the world to take precautions.

The assassination, which killed seven other people, received large support in Israel, despite the belief that it will spark more violence. The Yediot Ahronot daily published a poll showing 60% of Israelis thought that killing Yassin was the right thing to do, while 32% thought it was wrong.

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