JERUSALEM - The Associated Press
Palestinians stand in front of a graffiti depicting a resistance fighter in Gaza. Israel considers resuming targeted killings of Gaza militant leaders to stop rocket fires. AFP photo
Israel is considering resuming its contentious practice of assassinating militant leaders in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip in an effort to halt intensified rocket attacks on Israel’s south, according to defense officials.
Defense officials said the assassination of Hamas leaders is shaping up as the preferred response to the stepped-up rocket fire.
“I’m in favor of targeted killings,” said opposition lawmaker Shaul Mofaz. “It is a policy that led Hamas to understand, during the suicide bombings, that they would pay the price should [the bombings] continue,” he told Army Radio on Nov. 12.
Vice Premier Moshe Yaalon is convinced the practice worked. “Over these past 13 years there has been an ongoing war, but there have also been extended periods of calm,” Yaalon on Nov. 12. “When I was chief of staff, the targeted killings against Hamas led to extended periods of quiet.”
Hamas vows to strike back
Under Yaalon and Mofaz, Israeli aircraft struck at the commander of Hamas’ military wing, Salah Shehadeh, the movement’s spiritual leader, Sheik Ahmed Yassin, his successor, Abdel Aziz Rantisi, and dozens of other senior Hamas military commanders. A Hamas spokesman, meanwhile, told Anatolia news agency that they would respond to an Israeli attack on their leaders.
carries out an attack against Hamas leaders, we will respond to them,” said Salah al-Bardawil, a spokesman for Hamas’ parliamentary group. “They will receive the same level of response in any attacks,” he said.