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Israeli army delcares war on hamas { June 12 2003 }

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Israeli army declares war on Hamas - report
June 12 2003 at 09:09AM

Jerusalem - The Israeli army has been ordered to "completely wipe out" the Palestinian militant group Hamas, army radio reported on Thursday, a day after a suicide bomber killed 16 people on a Jerusalem bus.

The order, which directs the military to use "whatever means necessary" was issued following a meeting of Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz with the Israeli army's top command shortly after the attack.

Everyone, "from the lowliest member to Sheikh Ahmad Yassin" - a Hamas founder and its spiritual guide - is a legitimate target, the report said.

The latest round of killings and retaliations began on Tuesday, when Israeli helicopter gunships fired missiles at the car of Hamas' political leader, Abdul Aziz Rantissi, in a failed attempt to kill him.

Rantissi, who was wounded in that attack, promised bloody revenge, which led to the bombing in Jerusalem on Wednesday. It was claimed by Hamas' armed wing, the Ezzedin al-Qassam Brigades.

The Israeli cabinet was scheduled to meet on Thursday morning to consider how to respond to that attack, amid reports that ministers will again raise the question of expelling Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat from the territories.

"It is Israel's duty to respond following the horrific attack in Jerusalem, but we have to avoid antagonising the Americans, we have to react in an intelligent way," Justice Minister Tommy Lapid said.

Following criticism at home and abroad, including from the White House, over the timing of an assassination attempt against Rantissi, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has remained unmoved.

The former general "made it clear that insofar as terror is concerned, there will be no concessions, adding that he has made this clear in all of his conversations with the White House and the US State Department," his office said in a statement issued before the Jerusalem bombing.

Sharon vowed on Wednesday night to "continue to fight relentlessly against terrorism, against those who finance, plan and perpetrate attacks against Jews."

On Wednesday night, the army released statistics on the number of attacks carried out by Hamas in recent years.

"Since September 2000, 243 Israelis were murdered and more than 1 400 others were injured as a result of terrorist suicide bombings carried out by the Hamas," it added.

"Since 1993, Hamas has dispatched 114 suicide bombers, including 73 since September 2000," the statement said. - Sapa-AFP

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