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Hamas Vows Retaliation for Assassination Attempt on Leader - 2003-06-10

Hamas has vowed to launch a wave of attacks in revenge for the attempted assassination by Israel of one of its leaders in the Gaza Strip. Two bystanders, one an eight-year-old girl, were killed and 27 others wounded in a barrage of rockets from an Israeli military helicopter.

Hamas leader Abdel Aziz-Rantissi, wounded in the attempted assassination, vowed that his organization will continue to launch violent attacks. He spoke from his hospital bed in Gaza City after surviving a missile strike by an Israeli military helicopter.

At the same time, the spiritual leader of Hamas, Sheikh Ahmad Yassin, promised that Israeli civilians would be targeted. "Israel is targeting Palestinian civilians, so Israeli civilians should be targeted," he said.

Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas condemned the Israeli military operation against Mr. Rantissi. He branded it a criminal and terrorist Israeli attack that amounted to an attempted sabotage of peace efforts in the Middle East.

On Friday, Hamas called off planned talks with Mr. Abbas on a possible agreement to suspend armed attacks against Israel.

Hamas frequently carries out suicide bombings and other terror attacks against Israel. But Mr. Abbas has appealed to Hamas and other groups to halt such attacks, to give a chance for negotiations with Israel to succeed.

At the same time, he has ruled using force against militant groups, saying this would risk dragging Palestinian society into a civil war.

Meanwhile, Israeli troops have dismantled 10 illegally built Jewish outposts in the West Bank, most of them uninhabited.

The move is in line with Israel's obligations under the so-called "road map" to peace in the Middle East that is backed by the United States, the European Union, Russia, and the United Nations.

The plan calls for the end of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state by 2005.