The head of the militant Islamic movement Hamas in the Gaza Strip, Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi, has been killed in an attack on his vehicle, 26 days after the assassination of the group's founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin.
The military operation comes at the same time as Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is seeking support for his plans to remove all Jewish settlers from Gaza while retaining control of parts of the West Bank.
US President George W Bush endorsed the idea, which is opposed by many Palestinians.
How will the latest "targeted killing" by Israel affect any hopes for an Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement? Will it encourage more backing for the withdrawal from Gaza or prompt more violence?
This debate is now closed. Read your comments below.
The following comments reflect the balance of the opinion we have received:
Ultimately, peace must be achieved through negotiations. This act solves nothing and will only serve to prolong the conflict. May God have mercy on al-Rantissi, those he killed, and those who killed him.
Jason, Tampa, FL USA
Since Israel went on the offensive in April 2002, the number of both Israeli and Arab casualties has plummeted. This isn't a cycle of violence. This is breaking that cycle of violence - the only possible way. The world is a better place today.
Yishai Cohen, YeShA, Israel
A number of people on this board have asked if there is another way to stop Hamas other than to murder its political leaders. Sure, create a Palestinian state, make the capital East Jerusalem, pull out of the West Bank & Gaza (Israel is illegally squatting there since 1967) and settle on the right of return of the Palestinian refugees. Give me one good reason why the Palestinians should settle for anything less?
These assassinations have never helped the peace process and never will. US has already approved the killings by saying that Israel has a right to 'protect' itself. These killings will only serve as more fuel to the fire already burning in that region. It is a viscous cycle which can only be stopped with the total withdrawal of Israel from the Gaza Strip and West Bank.
Rantissi was a co-author of the covenant to destroy any form of Israel in whatever borders. Anybody lamenting the removal of this arch-terrorist manifests a callous and contemptible double standard towards Israel and Israeli lives.
Harry Rubin, Ca, USA
It does not matter what Fox news, CNN or George Bush say about who Rantissi was. It is a fact that he will do down to be a figure in the history of liberation of Palestine no more or less.
Ali, Cleveland, Ohio
I believe the world is better off without Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi. If more Palestinians would embrace peaceful protests patterned after the causes of Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, Ghandi, etc., the world's favour (and mine) would turn their way. It is only under international insistence that Israel will capitulate to compromise, and peaceful demonstrations are the only way Palestinians will secure international insistence.
Jared, Rochester, USA
Why is there no international reaction to government sanctioned murder? Why is the international community barely audible over these killings? Are we now to believe that some murders are better than others? Are our leaders so bereft of goodness that they keep quiet?
.. and so it goes on. War without end: Israeli kills Palestinian kills Israeli kills Palestinian and so on. Inexorably, the rest of the world (and that includes us) gets drawn into the sordid mess. Who are the winners? The men and women of violence; the losers, the rest of us. Only some are bigger losers than others; and here I refer to the innocent victims of violence, who wish nothing more than to live peaceful and happy lives.
Martin, Crewe, Cheshire
People commenting here have such a stunted knowledge of Hamas and their structure. The assassination today, was of a politician, not a terrorist. Hamas, like the IRA has a political and a military wing. Now we'll see a radical fill the void. Well done. Israel and America's 'terrorist factories' are more productive than ever.
Chris, Swansea, Wales
In response to Chris from Swansea Wales: My knowledge of Hamas may be stunted, but here is an excerpt from the BBC after al-Rantissi was "elected" last month: "Announcing he had been elected to head Hamas in Gaza, Mr Rantissi exhorted the Islamist movement's military brigade to avenge Sheikh Yassin's killing. 'The door is open for you to strike all places, all the time and using all means,' Mr Rantissi said." Now, you say, we'll see a radical fill the void. How much more radical can one be?
Zachary B., Wilmington USA
I will miss him very much in BBC World Service interviews. Most outspoken, brave hearted and against all his enemies. I will surely miss him. I am shocked by this political killing, no wonder I will blame Bush for that he is the main culprit or destroyer of the Middle East peace.
Rubayat Rahman, Canada
The Arabs and Muslims almost always make excuses for the terrorists. That's part of the problem!
Mark Anthony, Saudi Arabia
How Rantissi killing could be a blow to the peace? Mr Rantissi did not want peace. He wanted destruction of Israel. He declared the war on Israel and became a casualty of this war. He brought it on himself. Why anybody else should be blamed for that.
Len Triger, Toronto, Canada
Perhaps Mr Sharon hasn't heard this wise saying ... "What goes around, comes around"
Susannah, Dubai, UAE
It's just a pity all terrorist leaders throughout the world could not be targeted so effectively.
Andy, Dundee, Scotland
Farewell, peace..? Peace left the station long ago and nobody was on board.
Drew, Hawaii, USA
I wonder what Israel gained by this murder. Rantissi will soon be replaced by a more fundamentalist leader.
Zafar, Virginia, USA
You can't negotiate with terrorists. It's their way or the death highway.
Steve, Tampa, FL
Rantissi declared himself a combatant, Hamas has vowed that they will destroy the state of Israel - as a result Israel has killed a man who promised to organize the killing of civilians without compromise - think about it: if a known terrorist or militant (call it what you will) promised to blow up your school buses, cafes and restaurants, and the local authorities were unwilling to control or imprison him - would you not do as Israel did?
Jeff, Toronto, Canada
I'm sick and tired of uninformed people making these comments that blame George W Bush for every crisis in the world. The long and short of it is that since the beginning of time, fighting has been going on in the Middle East and there is nothing in the entire world that is going to change it.
Vivi, Dallas, Texas
In order to make peace and a safer world, individual terrorist or terrorist organization should be eliminated.
Piseth Long, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Killing the Hamas leadership is not going to bring peace to Israel, instead it is inspiring other Palestinians who wouldn't otherwise join any movement to fight Israel. What is going to happen if Palestinians start going after Israeli's leadership? The US government is clearly chosen its side in this conflict, so you cannot expect a solution that will please both sides. It is time for other countries to intervene now in order to find a solution. The international community is as guilty as those who are officially supporting one side or the other. Something must be done now, the world cannot just watch and condemn violence.
Revenge begets revenge. At all costs, the escalation must cease. Who will turn away from the path of violence? An organized government can do that; a chaotic mass of people whose government has been destroyed cannot.
Jay Deacon, Northampton, Massachusetts, USA
I find it difficult to believe that people can equate the 9/11 attacks with Israel's defensive strikes on terror leaders. The fact is that Hamas has claimed responsibility for many terror strikes, including suicide bombings, inside Israel which have killed hundred of innocents on purpose. To say that Israel had no right to protect its people with a violent response is utter foolishness. Rantissi was a radical who preached hate and destruction against Jews yet Europeans seem oblivious to this. He was a terrorist and despite one's opinion on whether or not the Israeli defensive strike would hurt or help the peace process there can be no denying that Israel had a right to take that action.
John, Chapel Hill (NC) USA
The world urgently needs a US president similar to Bill Clinton and an Israeli PM similar to Shimon Peres. Then the world will be a safer place.
Aaron , Wrexham
Despite a rational fact that no body has a right to practice killing for whatever their cause maybe (whether it is Hamas killing Israelis or vice versa). It is even more unfortunate that they receive only one sided condemnation from the US at the state level. How far can US go with policy? They can certainly support Israel for as long as they are super power, but for how long are they going to go against the rest of the world? History, my friends is very cruel. How will the US policy makers justify their stance in the wake of history. Whatever goes up must come down, God forbid that it land on our heads.
Imran, Lahore, Pakistan
Europe and the Arab world should support Palestinian moderates if the goal is to promote peace in the region. Rantissi was not a moderate. Rantissi advocated the killing of Israeli civilians. Israel therefore had the obligation to stop him. While it would be better to have Rantissi tried in a court of law, rather than assassinated, the Israeli's also had few alternatives - the Palestinian Authority refused to arrest Rantissi, and a military incursion would have been even more messy and caused more collateral damage than a targeted assassination. The Israeli's have the right to defend themselves.
Levi, New York, NY
Instead of many of you criticising Sharon and Israel, does any one have a better suggestion for neutralising the Hamas?
Avi Chaimovich, Montreal, Canada
I am very sad about the death of Rantissi and appealing to the United Nations to move in quickly to help the helpless Palestinians get their land
Mohamed A Nunow, Mbale, Uganda
Hamas vows everyday to murder every man, woman and child in Israel, but now we made them mad? What is wrong with people? Hamas is no more motivated to murder innocent civilians today than it was last week or last month. Therefore the killing of anyone in Hamas leadership cannot strengthen its resolve but merely weaken its infrastructure. Stop assuming Hamas is a reasonable negotiating party and realise it is already doing everything it can to murder children.
Noah Vale, Toronto Ontario
The killing of Rantissi and Yassin is counterproductive and steers away from the root cause. More blood will be shed until Israel leaves the territories.
Shal Patel, Toronto
In the end the killing of Mr Rantissi and the Sheik Yassin is compromising all the peace plans to dangerous grounds.
Definitely this will prompt more violence and not just against Israel.
Bill Dunn, Tarzana, CA
The increasing international lawlessness should be stopped immediately by a concerted effort of civilized societies.
Tanel Ross, Falls Church, USA/Estonia
Assassination, suicide bombing and military incursions is all terrorism no matter how you look at it. Civilians are the losers.
Naseem, Omaha, US
Another pitiful, destructive blow to the roadmap for peace. Is this much different from a suicide bomber? It's time to end this ridiculous occupation.
Meilin, NY, USA
You cannot negotiate with terrorists (Bin Laden, Arafat, Hamas) who want the ultimate destruction of western civilization (including Israel).
After being elected leader of Hamas, Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi vowed to continue Hamas' war to destroy and eliminate Israel. And so the Israelis have obliged and have brought the war to him, which is what he wanted.
Timeon Loane, Tarawa, Kiribati
This assassination escalates the violence and defeats its own purpose.
Dennis Johnson, Montreal, Canada
If you despise the killing of a Hamas leader, you welcome suicide bombings against innocent civilians. There is no other way of looking at it.
Randal Ippolito, New York, US
Is that what you came back with from USA Mr Sharon? Thanks Mr Bush for encouraging more people to follow Bin Laden! A great example of the American civilisation!!
Hamas is a terrorist organisation and any terrorist organisation is outlawed as well as its leaders. That's why the world community should summon its efforts in fighting it. I cannot understand those who condemn Israel actions, they are either cowards or hypocrites and traitors.
Dmitry Shevchenko, Astrakhan, Russia.
I think it is high time that both sides should stop the killings and sit down for a permanent settlement and spare the general population from the unnecessary sufferings that they are facing for no fault of their own.
Shantanu Basu, Kolkata, India
Israel sought out and killed a person who organised killing. Rantissi organised suicide bombers that killed those unlucky enough to be there at the time. Israel is merely stopping cold blooded murderers.
Rodney, Pretoria, South Africa
It will certainly prompt more violence.
I don't think Sharon and his party are serious for peace, they want to drag on the problem, letting innocent people being killed on both sides, and continue grabbing more Palestinian land. Jewish settlements in Gaza and West Bank came into existence, but at what price ? It's not worth it.
Kanti Patel, Toronto, Canada
It seems that Israel has committed yet another crime.
You may kill a leader, but there will always be another person to replace
him/her. I think this will only cause more fighting and deaths. It is not the answer
to the problem.
Margaret Salsbury, Eastbourne England
You can't negotiate peace with Bin Laden, with the terrorists who caused the
Madrid bombing, or with Hamas.
Philip, South Wales
It's quite simple - if a guy plans to kill you then the only choice is to
kill him first. His gang started this, and in a war one has no choice but
to act in self-defence. Those who condemn Israel's action are the biggest
Mark, London UK
Anyone who defends Hamas is as worthless as their leaders are. You can
support Palestinian rights without supporting groups that advocate the
extermination of a race of people.
Steve Coran, Maryland,
Had the Palestinians had the same opportunity, they would have killed
Sharon. Israel's ability to murder those who preach murder is the lesser
evil of the two sides, but Sharon should be careful, lest the Arab world
Ronnie Farzad, Washington DC
Sorry, but this is national terrorism... Farewell, peace...
This is a disgraceful breach of international law and totally
counter-productive to the peace process. Israel can't go unpunished by the
international community for this barbaric act.
This despicable act is certain to incur more bloodshed - on both sides -
in Israel and the Occupied Territories. George Bush's recent endorsement of
Ariel Sharon's 'peace sham' only gives the green light to further acts of
state-sponsored terrorism, such as this one.
The latest "targeted killing" will further weaken the terrorist group Hamas
and in the long run will reduce the violence. Israel has no choice but to
fight an organisation responsible for hundreds of deaths of Israeli civilians
and one devoted to destruction of the state of Israel.
This is throwing oil on a fire rather than combating terrorism. How will things
like this ever stop suicide bombings?? It is only more motivation.
Those who live by the sword shall die by the sword. Not original but apt.
Derek J Anstey, Oakville
I'm all against assassination, but how does one stop these guys that send
human bombs to kill whoever is unluckily there at that moment? They sit back
and call them heroes and promise them a better afterlife. Israel is right to
do away with the mentors of such crimes.
The same thing that would have occurred if Israel had not killed the
terrorist leader: more violence and more death.
Ehrlich, NYC USA
Now that Israel has proven that it can kill it should prove that it can make
Teemu Tuominen, Helsinki, Finland
Bush is responsible for this crime, after all he gave Sharon the green light
to continue his murderous criminal act against Palestinian people.
Rashid Farah, Somalia
Heathc, CA, USA