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March 09, 2003

Israel Decrees Hamas Main Target in'War'

An AP report picked up in The New York Post notes that killing a Hamas leader is in keeping with its drive to mop up Hamas
(AP) -- Hamas and its leaders are the main target of Israel's "war on terrorism," Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said on Sunday, a day after one of the group's founding members was killed in an Israeli missile strike in the Gaza Strip.

Hamas said it would avenge the killing of Ibrahim Makadmeh, 51, a leader of the group's military wing, by targeting Israeli political leaders. Makadmeh was the most senior Hamas member to be killed in 29 months of violence. Three of Makadmeh's bodyguards were also killed in the strike.

Israel's three-week-old offensive against Hamas in Gaza is its most sustained effort yet to subdue the Islamic militant group, which has killed hundreds of Israelis. However, Israel has been reluctant to reoccupy the crowded strip for logistical reasons, and may find it difficult to defeat Hamas, which has widespread support in Gaza.

The PLO's Central Council, meanwhile, continued talks Sunday after it approved a request Saturday by Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to establish the position of prime minister, a condition set by the United States as a precursor to the renewal of peace talks.

The council approved Arafat's nomination of Mahmoud Abbas, better known as Abu Mazen, as prime minister, caving to international and domestic pressure to name someone with political clout. The Palestinian legislature is to meet Monday to decide on the prime minister's authority.

Israel has said it will not renew peace talks with the Palestinians until a new leadership is named, and has refused to hold negotiations with Arafat.

Mofaz, who called Makadmeh an "arch-terrorist," said he welcomed the Palestinian move to reform their leadership but said Israel would continue to target all Palestinians involved in attacks on Israelis[more]