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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Israel Kills Hamas Bomber

JERUSALEM -- Israeli leaders hailed the killing of a top Hamas bomb maker as a resounding military success Monday and said such attacks would continue, but the Palestinians condemned it as state-sponsored assassination.

The militant Islamic group Hamas vowed to avenge the death of Muhanad al-Tahir and one of his lieutenants in a commando raid in the West Bank city of Nablus on Sunday, increasing the risk of a new spiral of Middle East violence.

Israeli Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer trumpeted the killing of Tahir, whom he called "a killer, a planner, an engineer" responsible for the deaths of more than 117 Israelis in suicide bombings.

"This is the most important operation of the past two months, an impressive achievement," Ben-Eliezer told Israel's Army Radio.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who has sent tanks to reoccupy seven West Bank cities in response to back-to-back suicide bombings, said Israel was acting in self-defense and will "continue to do that ... until there is an end to terror."

But Palestinian Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo said: "We condemn the assassinations of two Palestinians in Nablus. This is Sharon's plan to escalate the situation."

He accused the United States of giving Sharon the green light for such attacks and criticized the international community for staying silent.

Israel has been emboldened and the Palestinians angered by U.S. President George W. Bush's call last week for Palestinian President Yasser Arafat to be replaced with new leaders "uncompromised by terror."

Palestinian witnesses said Israeli special forces surrounded the home of a Tahir associate in Nablus, called on its occupants to evacuate and opened fire after most had left. Tahir, 26, and one of his deputies were killed and a third militant was wounded, Israeli security sources said.