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Hamas warns it will attack Israeli homes


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Israelis, Palestinians engaged in latest round of reprisals

Wednesday, September 10, 2003 Posted: 1:48 PM EDT (1748 GMT)

GAZA CITY (CNN) -- In a warning of reprisal, Hamas says it will begin targeting Israel houses in response to an Israeli air force attack on the home of a senior Hamas leader on Wednesday -- the day after two Hamas suicide bombings killed 15 Israelis.

The Israeli air force destroyed the two-story house of militant group Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar in an F-16 bombing strike in Gaza City, wounding him and killing his 20-year-old son and a bodyguard.

The Israeli attack wounded at least 20 others -- five critically -- according to a hospital official. Sources said Zahar's wife and daughter are in intensive care.

Within hours, the Palestinian Islamic fundamentalist group issued the warning that it will widen its tactics against the Jewish state and strike Israeli houses and apartments in the same manner that Israel has hit Palestinian homes. In the past, Hamas has targeted buses and conducted ambushes of vehicles.

Izzedine al-Qassam, Hamas' military wing, said in a leaflet that "the targeting of civilian houses is a violation of all red lines. Therefore, the Zionist enemy will have to shoulder responsibility for the targeting by us of houses and Zionist buildings everywhere in occupied Palestine."

Qorei accepts Palestinian leadership role

The escalating violence comes as Palestinian parliament speaker Ahmed Qorei on Wednesday said he has accepted the nomination to become Palestinian Authority prime minister. The nomination must be approved by the Palestinian parliament. (Full story) (Qorei profile)

He said he will present a small crisis Cabinet to parliament for approval within 24 hours.

"We are passing on a very dangerous and historical moment," Qorei told reporters. "...We should put emotion aside, and at this point think seriously about the interests of our people on both sides, Palestinians and Israelis."

The move comes just days after Mahmoud Abbas quit the post, citing "Israel's unwillingness to implement its road map commitments," a lack of sufficient support from the United States and the international community and opposition from the Palestinian Authority.

Qorei condemned Tuesday's suicide attacks, saying they were not helpful to the peace process.

President Bush on Wednesday said "time will tell" if Qorei makes strides fighting terror and creating the conditions for peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

Bush said "the most important condition" of the road map to peace is for "all parties to fight off terror" and "dismantle organizations whose intent is to destroy the vision of peace.

The so called road map -- backed by the United States, United Nations, European Union and Russia -- aims to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and establish an independent Palestinian state by 2005.

Amr Moussa, Arab League secretary-general, said the "bleak" situation between Israel and the Palestinians "cannot be tolerated."

"We should do everything possible for both parties to get back to the negotiating table rather than hitting at each other," Moussa said.

Ahmed Qorei, who accepted the nomination to be Palestinian Authority prime minister, talks to reporters Wednesday in Ramallah.

Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, quoted by the news agency Interfax, said that an international presence may be required in the Middle East to counter spiraling violence.

"The international community should put forward strict conditions for fulfilling the road map to Israel and Palestine. An international presence may be needed in the conflict zone to accomplish that," Ivanov said.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is returning to Israel, cutting short his official state visit to India because of the attacks.

Two suicide bombings in one day

Israeli security sources said they arrested a Hamas operative in Ramallah on Wednesday in connection with Tuesday's suicide bombings in Jerusalem and near Tel Aviv. Palestinian sources said another Hamas member was also arrested by the Israeli army.

Hamas said it carried out the bombings in retaliation for what it said were Israeli crimes against Palestinians.

The bombings killed 15 Israelis and wounded at least 65 others. The two suicide bombers also died.

The first attack Tuesday occurred at a bus stop near an Israeli army base east of Tel Aviv, when soldiers and employees from the hospital were gathering to head home at the end of their workday. Eight Israelis were killed and at least 15 were wounded, Israeli police said.

The second attack came about five hours later, in Jerusalem at the Cafe Hillel in the trendy German Colony area of the city.

Seven people were killed when a suicide bomber blew himself up near sidewalk tables after the cafe's guard turned the bomber away from the front door. At least 50 people were injured in that attack, ambulance service officials said.

They two attacks were the first suicide bombings since an August 19 bus bomb in Jerusalem killed 22 people and the bomber.

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