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The name given to Israel's policy of assassinating leaders of Palestinian groups whom it perceives as a threat to its national security. Since the beginning of the Palestinian "Intifada" in September 2000, dozens of Hamas and Islamic Jihad militants have been killed in this manner, mostly in response to suicide bombings for which they are responsible.

These targeted assassinations, almost universally condemned as contrary to international law, are justified by Israel as necessary due to the extraordinary circumstances it finds itself in, surrounded by other nations it perceives as hostile, and on the receiving end of constant terrorist atrocities, primarily committed by suicide bombers against a variety of civilian and military targets, such as civilian cafes, busses transporting both soldiers, Israeli civilians and other Palestinians, and Israeli military checkpoints inside the Palestinian territories.

The technique generally used, missile strikes from helicopters and fighter planes, does little to avoid deaths amongst nearby civilians. It symbolises the separateness of the two communities; use of such military hardware shows Israel sees the Palestinian territories as an enemy land, not an impoverished province they are occupying and for therefore they bear a responsibility.

Notable examples of this policy include: Salah Shahada, head of Hamas' military wing in the Gaza Strip, killed July 2002; Senior Hamas leader and party spokesman Abdul Aziz al-Rantissi who survived assassination in June 2003; Ismail Abu Shanab, leading Hamas figure killed August 2003. Sheikh Yassin survived an assassination attempt August 2003, only to be killed this morning, 22nd March 2004, by missiles launched from an Israeli helicopter after leaving a mosque.

The UN secretary general Kofi Annan, echoed many world leaders in saying of the attacks “I do condemn the targeted assassination of Sheikh Yassin and the others who died with him. Such actions are not only contrary to international law, but they do not do anything to help the search for a peaceful solution”

Due to the nature of assassinations, few leaders are willing to sit down at a table with someone they think might have them killed after they walk out of the door. ‘Targeted Killings’ undermine the very framework that makes diplomacy possible. They therefore symbolise why so much of the world thinks Israel is on the wrong side of the War against Terrorism.



Sources:

BBC News website, "Israel's 'targeted killings'; http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/3556809.stm

UN; Office of the Spokesman of the Secretary-General; http://www.un.org/apps/sg/offthecuff.asp?nid=564

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