Israel kills Hamas activist in rocket raid

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The Independent Online

Moving at ever greater velocity, the Israeli-Palestinian war yesterday produced another Israeli murder of a Palestinian guerrilla, a Palestinian attempt to murder Israeli soldiers near the Tel Aviv Defence Ministry, a Palestinian mortar attack on a Jewish settlement in Gaza, an Israeli helicopter attack on a Palestinian police barracks a few miles away and the biggest gun battle yet on the outskirts of Jerusalem.

So routine have the mutual killings now become that the US State Department remained silent – despite the fact that the ceasefire it brokered is still notionally in existence.

The latest state-sponsored murder by Israel – three rockets fired at the car of Amr Hassan Hudeiri, 21, a Hamas activist and bodyguard to a Hamas leader – was more successful than the previous assassination attempt. A ground-to-ground missile had missed its target in Ramallah on Saturday, giving Muhind Dirya, an aide to Marwan Barghouti, the leader of Force 17, a chance to hurl himself from his vehicle. Mr Hudeiri, described by colleagues as "a little active" – a Palestinian euphemism which suggested he may have been in involved in anti-Israeli attacks, as the Israelis claimed – was burnt alive in his car in Tulkarem seconds after an Israeli helicopter fired three missiles into the vehicle.

His funeral today will provide Hamas with an opportunity – as the Israelis must have known when they set out to kill him – for more threats to take revenge on Israel.

The Israelis had still not revealed the identity last night of the critically wounded Palestinian who tried to murder Israeli soldiers close to the defence ministry. He wounded 10 of them but another managed to fire a single shot into the gunman's head and he crashed into a lamppost. The Israeli police said they suspected an accomplice may have been involved in the shooting, the first of its kind inside Israel since the start of the intifada.

While several Israeli newspapers claimed that US Vice-President Dick Cheney had given his approval last week for Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's execution of Palestinian militants – something Mr Cheney denies – Mr Sharon appeared on Fox Television to defend the assassinations. Israel, he said, was "exercising its right" to self-defence. "I'm against killing. I wouldn't like to kill anyone, but, of course, we must understand [Yasser] Arafat could avoid it; he's got on [sic] his hands a list of 100 terrorists. What he has to do is just to stop them." The "free world", he added, should join in Israel's "war against terror" – an idea which will assuredly not commend itself to the "free world".