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Israel Gives US Evidence Linking Assassination Target with Terror Attacks - 2003-06-11

Israel has passed on information to the United States that it says proves senior Hamas official Abdel Aziz Rantisi was involved in terror attacks. The move follows White House criticism of Israel's attempt to assassinate Mr. Rantisi on Tuesday.

Israel says the evidence given to Washington shows a clear link between Mr. Rantisi and Hamas' military operations.

Israeli officials say the information proves that the attempt to assassinate Mr. Rantisi was justified and not intended to sabotage the international road map to peace in the Middle East.

An Israeli army helicopter fired several missiles Tuesday at a car in which Mr. Rantisi was traveling in Gaza City. Two bystanders were killed in the operation, but Mr. Rantisi survived and vowed from his hospital bed that his organization would launch revenge attacks against Israelis.

U.S. President George W. Bush sharply criticized the Israeli attack, saying such operations do not enhance the security of the Jewish State and make it difficult for the Palestinian leadership to convince militant groups to halt terrorism.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz authorized the assassination attempt two days after Hamas launched attacks that killed five Israeli soldiers.

Yuval Steinitz, the head of Israel's foreign affairs and defense committee, says such operations are necessary as long as Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen, refuses to crack down on Hamas.

"If Abu Mazen will continue to condemn terrorism and to do nothing against it, we shall continue to fight terrorism ourselves," said Mr. Steinitz.

Following the attempted assassination of Mr. Rantisi, Israeli forces launched another operation against Palestinian militants.

Three Palestinians were killed and 30 more injured in northern Gaza when Israeli forces fired on a car, suspected of transporting Kassam rockets.

Palestinian militants fired three such rockets Wednesday from the Gaza Strip at the Israeli town of Sderot. There were no reports of injuries.