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Israel Kills Alleged Hamas Master Bomb Maker - 2002-07-01

Israel says it has killed a man it describes as a master bomb maker for the militant Islamic group Hamas. Hamas has vowed to avenge the death of Muhanad Taher, a man Israel says is responsible for the murder of more than 100 people in suicide bombings.

Israeli Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer says the killing of Muhanad Taher is the most important military operation in the last two months and a most "significant achievement".

Mr. Taher, 26, and one of his lieutenants were killed by an elite Israeli commando unit during a raid into the West Bank city of Nablus on Sunday.

Hamas claims he was assassinated and says the killing will only fuel the organization's determination to continue what it says is a "holy war" against Israel. Israel denies the claim, saying Mr. Taher was killed in an exchange of gunfire after he refused to surrender.

Mr. Ben-Eliezer congratulated the soldiers who took part in the operation, describing Mr. Taher, as the "head of the military infrastructure of Hamas", and a "killer and planner" who "caused more than 100 Israelis to be murdered." He said there was no "terror attack in the last three months " in which Mr. Taher's "did not play a part".

The Israeli defense minister said that there were others within Hamas already preparing to take his place, but Mr. Taher had been the most dangerous bomb-maker within the organization. In Mr. Ben-Eliezer's words, he was in a "class of his own."

Mr. Taher's killing came as Israel began construction of new electronic security fence around Jerusalem that will eventually stretch 50 kilometers. The fence is designed to protect the city against Palestinian attacks from the West Bank.

In a separate development, Israel peacefully removed 11 unauthorized Jewish outposts in the West Bank. Mr. Ben-Eliezer said that more are to dismantled in the coming days.