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Hamas Field Commander Killed in Gaza Strip by Israeli Airstrike

September 20, 2004|From Reuters

GAZA CITY — A senior leader of Hamas' military wing was killed in an Israeli missile strike on his car as it drove through a Hamas stronghold in the Gaza Strip on Sunday, witnesses said.

The missile, which witnesses said was fired by an air force drone, ripped through the car carrying Khaled abu Selniya, 33. He was killed and six passersby were wounded.

Hamas vowed to avenge the death of Selniya, whom it described as a senior field commander of the group's armed wing, which has been behind scores of suicide bombings and other attacks against Israel over the last decade.

"It was a clear assassination of one of our mujahedin.... Hamas will be able and capable of teaching the enemy a painful lesson," said Mushir Masri, a Hamas spokesman.

The Israeli army said in a statement that Selniya had been targeted because he had played a central role in the manufacture and development of Kassam rockets, which Hamas militants have fired at the nearby Israeli town of Sderot.

Selniya's mangled body was taken to a local hospital. Charred wreckage from the car was strewn across the street, and windows were shattered in nearby shops.

The strike took place shortly after Hamas militants celebrated in the streets at the release of another leader of the group by Palestinian security forces.

The leader had been arrested earlier in the day, and Selniya was apparently returning after visiting the man in his home in Gaza City's Sheik Radwan neighborhood.

Witnesses said an Israeli military drone was flying overhead when the car burst into flames. Several reported seeing a flash in the sky before the explosion.

"Your blood will not be in vain. We will get revenge," Hamas activists shouted over loudspeakers in the Gaza Strip.

Israel has killed scores of Palestinian militants in airstrikes since the Palestinian uprising began four years ago.

Israel has been condemned by human rights groups and many members of the international community for targeting militants. Israel says it is the only way to reach those who hide in civilian areas without causing heavy civilian casualties.

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