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Israel says new Palestinian Hamas leaders could be subject to targeted killings

[JURIST] Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz [official profile] said Tuesday that Israel would consider resorting to targeted killings of Hamas leaders if the group resumes attacks in Israel. Hamas [ICT backgrounder], regarded by much of the international community to be a terrorist group, took control of the Palestinian Legislative Council [official website] this week after a surprise victory [JURIST report] in January's elections. Mofaz said that if Hamas "chooses the path of terror," its leaders would be considered a "terrorist leadership" and no one would be immune from targeted assassinations [BBC backgrounder], even Prime Minister-designate Ismail Haniyeh.

Israel's policy of targeting top Hamas officials has drawn widespread criticism in recent years. The assassination of Hamas founder Sheik Ahmed Yassin [BBC profile] in 2004 was widely condemned as contrary to international law [JURIST reports] by rights groups and by the UN's Commission on Human Rights [JURIST report]. Early last year, Israel agreed to suspend targeted killings of Palestinian militants [JURIST report] as part of a cease-fire agreement. Reuters has more.

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