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Israel Hunting Down Hamas Leaders

from the August 26, 2003 eNews issue

The bombing of a bus in Jerusalem last week has set off a new wave of violence between Israel and the terrorist group Hamas, leaving many wondering what remains of the "Road Map to Peace."

Following the suicide bombing, Palestinian leaders pledged to crack down on terrorist groups but failed to make any significant efforts to follow through.  The Palestinian Authority has a history of taking terrorism lightly.  A Foreign Ministry official said, "We were waiting to see even just one Hamas arrest."

After waiting through a period of PA non-action, Israel moved quickly to avoid more attacks and has now vowed to hunt down leaders of Hamas and Islamic Jihad for liquidation. "The Palestinians have to take a strategic decision," said Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom. "Are they willing to fight terrorism? Are they willing to fulfill their commitments in the road map to break up the terror infrastructure? ... When they don't do this, we have no choice but to do it instead."

Members of Hamas and Islamic Jihad have gone into hiding following Israel's threat, but that has not stopped Israel from already finding and killing several Hamas leaders, including Hamas co-founder Ismail Abu Shanab. At least four other Hamas militants have been killed this week.  However, a failed assassination attempt today that killed an innocent bystander has made the hunt for Hamas leaders a liability.

After the assassination of Shanab, both Hamas and Islamic Jihad were quick to declare an end to their temporary "cease-fire" and vowed that "rivers of blood" would flow in Israeli cities. The Israeli military was quick to point out that 25 civilians, including five Americans, were killed and 160 others wounded in attacks in the past two months, before the terrorist groups formally abandoned the cease-fire.

Hamas, which has killed hundreds of Israelis in scores of bombings, usually follows through on its threats. The group has already resumed firing mortar shells into Jewish settlements and many Israelis fear the next suicide bombing is only days away.  Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Moshe Ya'alon warned that Israel views "All Hamas militants are potential targets, and from our perspective all members of the organization are part of the radical core."  Hamas has in turn warned to revenge each of its members killed.  It is difficult to see how the violence will end anytime soon.  Israel now fears that the temporary truce, during which it freed scores of prisoners as a show of good faith, has only allowed terror cells to recover and prepare more attacks.


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