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Israel Kills Top Hamas Militant, Bulldozes His House in West Bank

By Robert Berger
27 July 2008

Israel has settled scores with a Palestinian on its most-wanted list during a raid in the West Bank. Tensions are also running high between rival Palestinian factions, as we hear from Robert Berger at the VOA bureau in Jerusalem.

Israeli commandos killed 25-year-old Shihab al-Natsheh, a top commander of the Islamic militant group Hamas, in the West Bank town of Hebron. There was a shootout, and when he refused to surrender, troops bulldozed the house he was hiding in.

The Israeli military said there were explosions inside the house during the exchange of fire, presumably from bombs stored inside.

The army had been pursuing Natsheh for five months, since he allegedly masterminded a suicide bombing that killed a woman in southern Israel.

While Israel and Hamas are observing a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, it does not apply to the West Bank. Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev says the daily West Bank raids are necessary, and effective.

"This way we are forcing the terrorists to play defense and preventing them, crippling their ability, to wage terrorist war against our civilians," Regev said.

Hamas issued a statement vowing revenge for the Israeli raid.

The group is also taking revenge on the rival Palestinian Fatah faction in Gaza, after five Hamas gunmen and a child were killed in a bomb explosion on Friday. At least 160 Fatah supporters have been arrested.

Fatah official Azzam al-Ahmad says the arrests are not justified.

"Hamas knows very well that Fatah has no connection whatsoever to the bombing," al-Ahmad said.

The two factions have been at loggerheads since Hamas routed Fatah forces in a civil war a year ago and seized control of Gaza. Fatah leader and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas now heads a more moderate government in the West Bank.

In retaliation for the Hamas crackdown in Gaza, security forces loyal to Mr. Abbas arrested about 35 Hamas activists in two West Bank towns.

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