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Last Updated:  Sunday, 9 March, 2003, 16:24 GMT
Killing of Hamas leader 'justified'
A Hamas militant holds up a portrait of Maqadma in front of a mural
Thousands have been honouring the dead Hamas leader
Israeli Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz has defended the killing of a leader and founder of the militant Islamic group Hamas.

Mr Mofaz said Ibrahim al-Maqadma had had the blood of many Israelis on his hands, and what he called the campaign against terrorism would continue to focus on Hamas.

Maqadma was one of four Hamas members killed in a helicopter attack on Gaza City on Saturday.

Militants have threatened to target Israeli politicians in retaliation.

We will hit everyone who is involved in terrorism
Shaul Mofaz, Israeli Defence Minister
The Israeli strike came shortly after the group said it was responsible for a suicide bombing and another attack which together killed nearly 20 Israelis.

Despite increased Israeli military activity in Gaza, and its partial re-occupation of the Palestinian territory, rocket attacks across the border into Israel have continued.

On Sunday, four Qassam rockets were launched from Gaza into Sderot. There were no casualties.

Israeli campaign

Mr Mofaz told army radio that Israel would "hit everyone who is involved in terrorism".

Ibrahim al-Maqadma, killed by Israeli missile
Hamas vowed to hit Israeli leaders in retaliation for Maqadma's death
"Maqadma was the ultimate arch-terrorist. He was involved up to his neck in planning hundreds of terrorist attacks," he said.

Maqadma was one of the most senior Hamas militants to be killed by Israelis since the start of the Palestinian uprising in September 2000.

Israel has been intensifying efforts to crush the militant group in Gaza for the past three weeks.

Last week, Israeli forces captured a co-founder of the Hamas movement, Mohammed Taha, during a raid on Gaza in which several civilians were killed.

New PM?

Hamas official Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi called on all unit commanders to target Israeli politicians following the death of Maqadma.

Tens of thousands of Palestinians turned out for the Hamas founder's funeral in Gaza City at which 30 men dressed in the bright green of Islam preceded the coffin, wearing signs to indicate that they were future suicide bombers.

"The Qassam brigades will cut off 100 heads in return for the death of our martyr," supporters chanted, referring to the military wing of Hamas.

As tensions continued in Gaza, the Palestine Liberation Organisation's decision-making body met in the West Bank town of Ramallah to approve the appointment of Mahmoud Abbas as the first Palestinian prime minister.

Mr Abbas has said he will decide on whether he wants the job once it is decided what powers he would have.




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