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Last Updated: Thursday, 12 June, 2003, 20:59 GMT 21:59 UK
Hamas warning after Gaza strikes
Palestinian crowd around wreckage of Yasser Taha's car
Israeli strikes on Hamas have multiplied

Palestinian militant group Hamas has warned foreigners to leave Israeli soil and pledged to bomb the Israeli state into "rubble".

The group's military wing issued its statement on a day when Israeli attacks killed seven people in Gaza City and two in the West Bank town of Jenin.

The helicopter rocket attack on Gaza was the third such strike in 24 hours, and followed a suicide attack by Hamas on a Jerusalem bus on Wednesday which killed 17 people, including the bomber.

The Israeli army has been authorised to use every means to destroy the group, its radio station said on Thursday.

In the United States, the White House singled out Hamas as being the main obstacle to the peace effort recently launched by President George W Bush.

"The issue is Hamas. The terrorists are Hamas," spokesman Ari Fleischer told reporters.

US national security adviser Condoleezza Rice said separately she was convinced that the Bush peace plan remained "absolutely" relevant.

But in the fight between the Israeli Government and Palestinian militants, the BBC's James Reynolds reports from Jerusalem, there appears to be little room right now for the "road map".

'Leave immediately'

Yasser Taha, a senior member of Hamas's military wing, was killed along with his wife and young child and four other Palestinians, with some 25 people injured, when a helicopter gunship rocketed his car in Gaza City.

The attack took place close to the cemetery where victims of Tuesday's Israeli strikes were being buried.

Relatives at funeral of one of Wednesday's Jewish bomb victims
4 June: US-Jordanian-Israeli summit in Aqaba
8 June: Hamas attacks Gaza army base, kills four soldiers
10 June: Israeli attempt to kill Hamas leader Rantissi
11 June: Suicide attack on Jerusalem bus; Israeli missile strikes on Gaza

Another 25 people were wounded in the attack, say local doctors.

Reports say between four and six missiles were fired at the car, being driven in a part of Gaza known as a Hamas stronghold.

In Jenin, the Israeli army said troops had killed two Islamic Jihad militants during an arrest operation when the two allegedly drew guns.

In its website statement, Hamas's military wing claimed responsibility for Wednesday's bomb attack in Jerusalem, naming the bomber as 18-year-old Abd-al-Muti Muhammad Salih Shabanah, of Hebron.

It described it as "the first in a new series of operations... targeting every Zionist usurping our land".

Promising to "turn the Zionist entity's state into rubble", the group told foreign citizens to leave "immediately to save their lives".

In an interview for Qatari satellite TV station al-Jazeera, a man described as a leading Hamas member in Gaza, Mahmud al-Zahhar, predicted that Palestinian attacks on Israelis were imminent "to show them that an eye is for an eye and a tooth for a tooth".

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has appealed to the United Nations to intervene to stop "the bloodbath perpetrated by the Israeli occupying forces" since the Bush-led peace talks in Jordan and Egypt earlier in June.

'Get Hamas'

Israeli army radio has been reporting that the forces are now under orders to "completely wipe out" Hamas.

The radio said everyone from the lowliest member to Sheikh Ahmad Yassin - the crippled spiritual guide of Hamas - was a target.

Israeli Government spokesman Mark Sofer told the BBC that Israel preferred if the Palestinian authorities dealt with the militants themselves.

"If they are unwilling or unable to do it we will work with them in helping to do so, but we will also work ourselves," he said.

The BBC's Barbara Plett, in Jerusalem, says if that if word of an intensified assassination strategy by Israel is any more than psychological warfare it could deal a death blow to the Middle East peace plan, known as the road map.

The BBC's Richard Galpin
"The Palestinian prime minister lacks a popular support base"

Israel and the Palestinians



Palestinian women sit on a roof top of the home of a Palestinian family in Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip on 20 November 2006. Human shields
Palestinians adopt a new tactic to deter Israeli attacks, but this is a high-risk strategy




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