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Bush sealed hamas leaders fate

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17 Apr 2004 23:06
Bush sealed Hamas leader's fate - Palestinians
By Nidal al-Mughrabi

GAZA (Reuters) - "It was Bush".

The verdict was near unanimous amid the tears and rage on Palestinian streets after Israel killed Hamas leader Abdel-Aziz al-Rantissi in an air strike on Saturday that many Arabs felt U.S. President George W. Bush must have approved.

"Bush has Rantissi's blood on his hands," said Khamis Saadi, among tens of thousands who swept into Gaza's shabby streets.

"All doors to hell should be opened against the Israelis and against the Americans," he cried.

U.S. officials denied giving a green light to Israel.

But Palestinians, fuming over unprecedented concessions Bush gave Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon last week for a Gaza pullout plan, felt Rantissi's killing was just another action in the same vein.

Sharon's Palestinian counterpart, Ahmed Qurie, called it "a direct result of American encouragement and the complete bias of the American administration towards the Israeli government".

The United States has always been a target of Palestinian and Arab ire because of its close relations with Israel.

But Bush's statement that Israel could expect to keep chunks of the West Bank seized in the 1967 Middle East war and ruled out a return of refugees to what is now Israel was felt by many Palestinians as a death blow for dreams of a real state.

"Bush freed the hands of Sharon to do whatever he liked with the Palestinian people, to kill their leaders and to confiscate their land," said one mourner in Gaza called Hammad.

Israel said in Rantissi it had killed a "mastermind of terrorism" -- Hamas Islamic militants have sworn to destroy Israel and killed hundreds of Israelis in suicide attacks.


On the streets of Gaza, there were many calls for Hamas to change its longstanding strategy of attacking only Israelis and to start killing Americans too.

A Hamas leader did not go that far, but allied the Palestinian cause with that of insurgents fighting the U.S. occupation of Iraq.

"Sharon and Bush will see more blood coming from their noses in Palestine and Iraq," said Mahmoud al-Zahar.

The Hamas military wing, Izz al-Deen al-Qassam, vowed "100 retaliations", but all against Israel rather than the United States.

Condemnation of Rantissi's killing came from around the world.

Javier Solana, foreign policy chief for Middle East peace Quartet member European Union, called the killing "unlawful" and "not conducive to lowering tension". British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw called it "unlawful, unjustified and counter-productive".

U.S. reaction was more nuanced. "The United States is gravely concerned for regional peace and stability," said a statement, issued under the name of White House press secretary Scott McClellan.

Anger in Arab countries was intense. The assassination came less than one month after Israel killed Hamas spiritual leader Ahmed Yassin in a similar attack. That drew thousands to protests across the Middle East.

Egypt's Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher accused Israel of trying to "kill off the chance for peace (and push) the region to the edge of the abyss".

Some in a region that is extremely uncomfortable with the U.S. occupation of Iraq also saw an American hand.

Yemeni Foreign Minister Abubakr al-Qibri said: "The United States bears the responsibility for what happens, since after every visit by Sharon to Washington he commits more terrorism and assassinations."

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