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Israeli Air Strike Kills Hamas Leader Rantisi - 2004-04-18


Israel has killed the leader of the Palestinian militant group Hamas in the Gaza Strip in a missile strike that drew condemnation from European and Arab officials.

Abdel Aziz Rantisi died at a Gaza City hospital shortly after the Saturday attack, which also killed two bodyguards.

Israeli Foreign Ministry officials say Mr. Rantisi had to be killed to prevent further terror attacks on Israelis.

Britain condemned the strike, with Foreign Secretary Jack Straw calling it unlawful. E.U. foreign policy chief Javier Solana said the attack would not help advance the peace process. Egypt and Jordan also condemned the strike.

The White House stressed that Israel has a right to defend itself, but warned it to consider the consequences of its actions.

Hamas has vowed to avenge Mr. Rantisi's death. Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia said the attack was the result of American bias towards the Israel government.

Mr. Rantisi became the top leader of Hamas in the Gaza Strip after Israeli forces assassinated Hamas spiritual leader Sheik Ahmed Yassin last month.

Earlier Saturday, a Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up at a crossing point between Israel and the Gaza Strip. One Israel soldier died from the attack.

Hamas and another militant group, the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, claimed responsibility for the attack.

Information for this report is provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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