Hamas leaders: Sharon is prime target, no plans to attack US interests
A top official from the Hamas movement said Wednesday that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has been targeted by its armed wing following the Israeli assassination of the group's founder and spiritual leader, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, earlier this week.
"[Israel premier Ariel] Sharon has become targeted by Palestinian resistance men and Al-Qassam Brigades, in retaliation for the assassination of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin," Khaled Mashaal, Hamas political bureau head, told the movement's website.
The Hamas movement has repeatedly threatened to attack Israeli officials, including Defense Minister Saul Mofaz, since Yassin was killed early Monday in an Israeli airstrike in Gaza.
In the meantime, Hamas has also distributed playing cards carrying the names of Israeli officials that would be targeted, in an apparent move to imitate the American deck of cards of "wanted" former Iraqi officials of Saddam Hussein's regime.
Mashaal conveyed that Hamas' response to Yassin's assassination would be "of the same size and impact," meaning it would be targeting high-level Israeli officials.
Mashaal, however, noted that Hamas would not intend to carry out attacks against "international" targets, saying that the movement would focus its attacks against Israel until the ending of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.
On his part, the new Hamas leader in Gaza Strip said Wednesday his group had no plans to attack U.S. targets.
Abdel Aziz Rantisi said the group's activities were aimed solely at Israel. "We are inside Palestinian land and acting only inside Palestinian land. We are resisting the occupation, nothing else," Rantisi told reporters in Gaza. "Our resistance will continue just inside our border, here inside our country."
Rantisi denied reports that Hamas would join with al-Qaida, calling the claims "Zionist propaganda."
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat said Wednesday he opposed "any attack on civilians, whether they were Israel or Palestinian."
Meanwhile, also Wednesday, Sharon said in a speech marking the 25th anniversary of Israel's peace treaty with Egypt that his country is "seeking peace" with the Arab world, including the Palestinians.
"This is the kind of peace Israel is striving for, not only with Egypt and Jordan but with all Arab countries, first and foremost with our neighbors Syria, Lebanon and the Palestinian Authority," he told deputies.
"Israel is willing to march forward again with its neighbors, beyond the already existing peace, with depth and determination, exactly as it did 25 years ago in signing the peace agreements with Egypt."
In the course of his speech, Sharon praised former Israeli leader Menahem Begin and late Egyptian president Anwar Sadat for managing to "bridge the chasms of hatred and suspicion between the two countries". (Albawaba.com)
© 2004 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)
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