x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Israel mulls assassinating militant leaders in Gaza

Israel is considering resuming its contentious practice of assassinating militant leaders in Gaza, defence officials say.

JERUSALEM // Israel is considering resuming its contentious practice of assassinating militant leaders in Gaza, defence officials say.

Gaza militants have fired more than 100 rockets at Israel in recent days, triggering retaliatory Israeli air strikes that have killed six people in Gaza. Yesterday was relatively calm, with just one rocket being launched into Israel.

Some Israelis have demanded a harsh military move, perhaps a repeat of Israel's incursion into Gaza four years ago. Others believe Israel should target Hamas leaders, a method it used to kill dozens of militants nearly a decade ago.

Advocates have said targeted killings are an effective deterrent without the complications of a ground operation - chiefly civilian and Israeli troop casualties. Proponents argue they also prevent future attacks by removing their masterminds.

Critics say they invite retaliation by militants and encourage them to try to assassinate Israeli leaders.

Shaul Mofaz, an opposition member of parliament, served as military chief of staff and defence minister when Israel carried out a wave of assassinations against Hamas and other militant leaders in the early part of the past decade. He and other former top defence officials contend these assassinations left the Hamas leadership in disarray and put a halt to the rash of Hamas suicide bombings that killed hundreds of Israelis.

The vice premier, Moshe Yaalon, the chief of staff at the time targeted killings surged, is convinced the practice worked.

"Clearly over these past 13 years there has been an ongoing war, but there have also been extended periods of calm," Yaalon said on Monday. "When I was chief of staff, the targeted killings against Hamas led to extended periods of quiet."

Hamas dismissed the threat of targeted killings as "psychological warfare", and said its political leaders were not in hiding.