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Rantisi assassination harpoons peace effort
Hu Xuan  Updated: 2004-04-19 08:37

Hamas leader Abdel Aziz Rantisi was killed by an Israeli missile strike on Saturday night in the Gaza Strip.

Israel has vowed to target Hamas leaders at every opportunity, and Rantisi, who was named Hamas chief less than a month after a similar Israeli attack killed the group's founder, Sheik Ahmed Yassin, was near the top of the list.

Fueling more hatred among Palestinians, who have responded with vows of revenge, Rantisi's assassination will only unleash fresh tensions and inevitably drive the already desperate situation increasingly out of control.

"This blood will not be wasted," said Ismail Haniyeh, another Hamas leader. "All of us will be martyrs. This is our fate as Hamas and Palestinian people. This will not end our willingness to continue the resistance."

Wide condemnation from the international community followed Saturday's attack.

It is crystal clear that Rantisi's death has dealt a huge blow to efforts to resume progress toward peace. Fearing reprisal bombings, Israeli security forces were immediately placed on high alert.

While blood is being shed, the pressing task is to bring forward means that can effectively help stem fresh rounds of vengeance.

Notwithstanding, Ehud Olmert, Israel's vice-premier, warned there will be more attacks. Added Uzi Landau, a member of the Israeli cabinet: "There is no question. This is a great success." Plans to target Rantisi had been in the works for a long time. Israel tried to kill Rantisi last June, launching a helicopter missile strike that wounded him in his car, but he soon recovered.

The assassination was also branded as part of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's declared campaign to wipe out the Islamic militant group's leadership ahead of a planned Israeli unilateral pullout from Gaza.

The strike came just three days after US President George W. Bush indicated his support for Sharon's plans to withdraw unilaterally from the Gaza Strip and parts of the West bank, which cost Palestinians large tracts of land they want for a state.

Bush's overall support for Sharon was seen as a significant victory for the Israeli leader and a green light for Israel to act aggressively.

Such support makes the United States lose its credibility to act as an honest broker for peace in the Middle East.

Ahmed Qurei, the Palestinian prime minister, said on Saturday night the Palestinian cabinet considers the Israeli campaign a direct result of American encouragement and the complete bias of the US administration toward the Israeli Government.

Fearing retaliatory attacks from Palestinians that will escalate already high Mideast tensions in the wake of the Saturday's killing, the White House responded with a muted call for all sides to show "maximum restraint."

But Washington declined to criticize the assassination. "As we have repeatedly made clear, Israel has the right to defend itself from terrorist attacks," White House press secretary Scott McClellan said.

Washington's stance does nothing to move the two sides back to the negotiating table.

An independent Palestine is key to stabilizing the Middle East. Comprehensive security for the region cannot be expected if Palestinians continue to be deprived of their livelihood and dignity.

The only valid trade-off for saving the peace process and resuming negotiations is the principle of "land for peace."

(China Daily)

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