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Palestinians Say Israel Reviving 'Assassination' Policy - 2001-10-14

An elite Israeli sniper unit has shot dead a leading member of the militant Islamic group Hamas in the West Bank. The Palestinian man was suspected of planning two suicide bombings that killed a total of 24 people.

Israeli military snipers shot dead Abdel Rahman Hamad as he stood on the roof of his home in the West Bank town of Qalqilya.

Israeli military officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed that Israeli troops had killed Mr. Hamad, a member of the military wing of Hamas, the Islamic Resistance Movement.

The office of Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, also issued a statement saying that Mr. Hamad was responsible for directing a suicide bombing outside a disco in Tel Aviv in June. Twenty-two people died in the attack, most them teenagers.

The man was also suspected of organizing another suicide bombing that killed two children at a gas station in central Israel.

Mr. Hamad was on a list of wanted terrorists handed by Israel to the Palestinian Authority as part of a cease-fire agreement, with a demand that he be arrested.

Palestinian Information Minister, Yasser Abed Rabbo, says the killing has signaled the revival of what he says is Israel's "assassination" policy.

Israel had agreed to suspend such killings as part of a truce with the Palestinians agreed to under pressure from the United States.

The shooting came as Mr. Sharon's Cabinet met to discuss the easing of security restrictions against the Palestinians that have limited their movements since the start of clashes more than one year ago.

Israeli officials say the measures had been imposed in a bid to prevent Palestinian militants from entering the Jewish State to carry out terrorist attacks.

Palestinians have described the closures imposed on their areas as a form of collective punishment.

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat is expected to make this point, when he meets with British Prime Minister, Tony Blair on Monday. They are scheduled to discuss Middle East peace efforts and the U-S and British military strikes in Afghanistan.