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Israel Increases Security for Government Ministers - 2003-09-02

Israel's security service is stepping up efforts to protect government ministers after threats by the Islamic militant group Hamas that it would seek revenge for Israel's assassination of a number of senior militants. In its latest attack against Hamas on Monday, Israeli helicopters killed at least two Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip and wounded at least 25 other Palestinians.

Israel's Army radio says the Shin Beit security service is stepping up protection of government ministers to guard against possible Hamas assassination attempts. Hamas has vowed revenge for a number of targeted killings carried out by Israel against militants in recent weeks.

On Monday, Israeli helicopter gun ships fired four missiles at a car in Gaza City, killing two Hamas militants. A third is reported in critical condition. At least 25 bystanders were injured by flying shrapnel.

Earlier Monday, military chief Moshe Ya'alon told the Israeli cabinet that the army was ready to launch a ground strike in the Gaza Strip if the militants continue firing homemade rockets at the Israeli town of Ashkelon. One such rocket hit the coastal city last week, in the northernmost rocket strike yet.

Islamic militants renounced a seven-week-old truce, after Israel killed top Hamas political leader, Ismail Abu Shanab, in retaliation for the suicide bus bombing two weeks ago that killed 21 Israelis. Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz told the cabinet that since that bus bombing in Jerusalem, the Israeli military has adopted a policy of all-out war on Hamas. He said the war is in the form of a continuous, prolonged targeting of the organization's leadership as well as its operational heads.

Army Radio also reported that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon told the cabinet that Israel must show the world it still wants to pursue the diplomatic process, but that it will not make any concessions when it comes to security.

Mr. Sharon was also quoted as saying the Palestinians were still not fighting terrorism as required under the road map peace plan so Israel has no choice but to act on its own.