IN A desperate attempt to stop the barrage of rockets fired by Hamas at Israeli villages, Ehud Olmert, Israel’s prime minister, has ordered his security chiefs to target the Islamic movement’s political leadership.
According to Israeli security sources, a decision to assassinate leading Hamas politicians was taken by Olmert and his defence minister, Amir Peretz. Early yesterday Israeli missiles struck Hamas targets in Gaza, including a charity run by the group.
Since withdrawing from Gaza more than a year ago, Israel has targeted Hamas’s military activists, but that has not stopped the rockets. Outraged by an attack last Wednesday on the village of Sderot, Israel is determined to ensure the political leadership in Gaza, the West Bank and abroad will “no longer escape responsibility”.
The controversial change in tactics has been driven by Peretz, who broke down in tears when one of his bodyguards was badly injured in Sderot, his home village. The army has been battling against Palestinian rocket units in northern Gaza for months and has intensified its operations there in recent weeks. Since the beginning of this month, 98 Palestinians have been killed.
“The Gaza Strip is about to turn into the biggest terrorist compound on earth,” Yuval Diskin, the head of the Israeli internal security service, warned a parliamentary committee last week. “We have no choice but to consider a massive military operation there.”
Yesterday, deputy prime minister Avigdor Lieberman called for the assassination of Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders. "They have to disappear, go to paradise, all of them," he said.