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Critics warn Israeli air strikes are counterproductive to cause

Wednesday, September 3, 2003

JERUSALEM -- Every two or three days, Israeli helicopters track down suspected Islamic militants and unleash Hellfire missiles, blowing up cars and sending crowds surging around the charred bodies.

Israel says its new war on Hamas, unprecedented in intensity, is helping prevent suicide attacks.

"Hamas is in distress because of our activity," Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said Tuesday, summing up two weeks of air strikes that have killed 11 Hamas members, including a senior leader.

But the attacks also have taken a toll on noncombatants, killing five bystanders, including an 11-year-old girl, and wounding 46.

Critics warn that Israel's self-declared "all-out war" on Hamas will bring short-term gains at best, but in the end be counterproductive by provoking more attacks and adding to resentment among Palestinians.

"For everyone they kill there will be someone else who will take his place," said Ali Jarbawi, a Palestinian analyst.

Targeted killings have been a key tactic -- though critics say a largely ineffective one -- in Israel's war against militants since November 2000, two months after the outbreak of the current round of fighting.

In all, about 140 terror suspects have been killed in such attacks, according to Palestinian medical officials, though that total also includes fugitives killed resisting arrest. More than 100 bystanders have also died in targeted killings.


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