Iraq Crisis: Hamas puts Israel on notice of revenge

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The Independent Online
THE military wing of Hamas threatened yesterday to attack Israeli targets if the United States takes military action against Saddam Hussein.

In a statement distributed in Gaza yesterday, the Islamic militants' Izz el-Deen al-Qassam Brigades said: "We will not stand with our hands tied if the Iraqi people and their children, or any other Arab or Muslim people, are subjected to US military attacks.

"We will answer this in our special way by hitting the Zionist heartland and its monstrous entity. We consider this a continuation of our holy struggle against the Zionist enemy."

Hamas has killed dozens of Israeli civilians in suicide bombings over the past two years. In the most recent of these, 21 died in a Jerusalem market and a shopping centre last August and September.

Since then, Israeli and Palestinian security services have weakened Hamas by smashing key West Bank cells. Israel last night dismissed the threat as "bombastic rhetoric". Israeli spokesmen do not underestimate the group's capacity to strike again, but question whether it needs the pretext of Saddam Hussein.

Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, Hamas's founder and spiritual mentor, said yesterday: "People have feelings, and the Palestinian and Arab people are boiling at what is happening in Iraq. It would be natural if there were a suitable reaction to US injustice."

He urged Arabs to boycott American goods. "If we can't fight them militarily," he said, "let's fight them economically."