Hamas vows revenge for killing of bomber

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The Independent Online
THE carefully planned assassination of a leader of the military wing of Hamas, the Palestinian militant organisation, has brought threats of a new wave of bomb attacks on Israeli targets.

Palestinian police yesterday identified the body of a man blown up in in the West Bank town of Ramallah last Sunday as that of Mohiyedine Sharif, the Palestinian militant wanted by Israel. The police said he was first shot dead and his body planted beside a car packed with explosives which later blew up.

Israel denied yesterday that it was behind the assassination, but Abdulla Aziz Al-Rantisi, a top Hamas leader in Gaza, warned: "Hamas never leaves its members unavenged."

The killing of Yahya Ayash, a military leader of Hamas, in Gaza in 1996 by the Israeli Shin Bet Security Service using a booby-trapped mobile phone, led to four suicide bomb attacks in revenge in which 62 people died.

The elaborate effort made to conceal how Mr Sharif died made it difficult to identify his body. It led police in the autonomous Palestinian enclave of Ramallah to believe at first that he was a Hamas bomber on his way to a target who had accidentally blown himself up. Only yesterday did they establish his true identity and the cause of his death.

Police said: "His father, mother and brothers identified him early this morning. The pathologists said after performing the autopsy that the person was killed before the explosion." They added that Mr Sharif had died from gunshot wounds.

Israel believed that Mr Sharif was behind suicide bombs in Jerusalem last July and September. Six months ago Israeli intelligence tried and failed to kill Khalid Meshal, a Hamas official, with poison gas in Amman, the Jordanian capital. Palestinians are likely to believe that Israeli agents killed Mr Sharif in a similar operation. In the past such assassinations have invariably led to revenge attacks.

In a separate development, the Israeli Inner Cabinet yesterday adopted for the first time the UN Security Council resolution 425 calling for it to withdraw its troops from South Lebanon. It made the withdrawal conditional on the government of Lebanon providing security guarantees to prevent guerrilla attacks against its northern border.

The Lebanese President Elias Hrawi pointed out that 425 demands an "unconditional" retreat by the Israelis.

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