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Hamas Threatens to Retaliate Against Israeli Attacks - 2003-09-10

The militant Islamic group Hamas is threatening to start attacking Israelis in their private homes. The threat follows Israel's attempted assassination of a Hamas leader.

The military wing of Hamas reacted angrily to Israel's bombing of the home of Mahmoud al-Zahar in Gaza City.

Mr. Zahar survived the attack, but several others, including his eldest son, were reported killed when Israeli warplanes targeted his house.

The military wing of Hamas, Izzdine El-Qassam, issued a leaflet saying that Israel would pay a heavy price for targeting "civilian homes." It said that the Israeli government would now have to "shoulder responsibility" for Hamas targeting the houses of Israeli citizens.

Israel launched its raid against Mr. Zahar, in the wake of two Palestinian suicide bombings on Tuesday that killed at least 15 Israelis and wounded dozens more.

Hamas leaders praised the operations as a "natural reaction" to what they called Israel's "bloody aggression" against the Palestinians.

Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat, also accused Israel of escalating the violence by its attempted assassination of Mr. Zahar.

"We condemn this attack by an F-16 on the most densely populated area on earth in Gaza City, where there are six Palestinians to every square meter," he said. "This is adding fuel to the fire. This is adding to the complexities. This will only just enlarge the cycle of violence and counter-violence."

Mr. Erekat said that the international community must intervene to prevent the situation deteriorating even further.

"We need the help of a third party," he said. "We need the help of the Americans and the Quartet [The United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations] in order to ensure the implementation of the road map [to peace plan] and that the 'road map' is on the table and that the peace process can be revived."

Israel has responded by saying that it is the Palestinian leadership that is undermining hopes for the international "road map" to peace plan in the Middle East.

Israel says it is forced to take action because of the failure of the Palestinian Authority to prevent attacks against Israeli citizens.

Israeli officials say that the operation against Mr. Zahar was justified, claiming he has been responsible for helping to organize a number of deadly terror attacks and inciting Palestinians to violence.