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Sharon hopes killing boosts his support

By Laura King and Ken Ellingwood
Los Angeles Times

    JERUSALEM -- As high-stakes gambles go, Monday's assassination of Sheik Ahmed Yassin ranks as one of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's biggest rolls of the dice.
    In eliminating Yassin, the aging, ailing founder and spiritual leader of Hamas, Sharon has wagered that the strike would leave the Islamic militant group's disciples reeling and disoriented, undercutting their organizational effectiveness and sapping their will to carry out more attacks.
    Sharon also appears to have calculated that the dramatic strike would help ensure that his plan to withdraw Israeli troops and settlers from the Gaza Strip was not interpreted by Palestinian militants as a sign of weakness.
    Yet even those Israeli officials who supported Sharon's decision to kill Yassin are well aware that the cries for revenge ringing through the streets of Gaza are likely to herald yet more suicide bombings -- which Hamas, during 42 months of the current Israeli-Palestinian conflict, has turned into its trademark weapon.
    The assassination could have other unintended consequences, including bolstering Hamas' ties to other militant Palestinian groups, sowing greater chaos in the Gaza Strip, and strengthening the position of Sharon's bitter foe, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, who saw Yassin as his most powerful rival.
    "The killing of Sheik Yassin is liable to open a cycle of bloodshed and exact a heavy and needless cost from Israel," said Yossi Beilin, a veteran leftist politician who was one of the architects of a much-discussed but unofficial peace blueprint with the Palestinians.
    Killing a figure as revered by Palestinians as Yassin is cited by some as the latest example of Sharon's tendency to take matters into his own hands regardless of the consequences.
    The decision to strike down the frail, half-blind cleric fits into an increasingly familiar pattern of behavior on Sharon's part -- that of unilateral action, as opposed to moves made either in concert with the United States or as a consequence of negotiations with the Palestinians.


    Having refused to engage in substantive peace talks as long as Arafat holds the reins of power, the Israeli leader has begun constructing a barrier to partition off the West Bank, proposed the Gaza pullout as part of a larger plan to "disengage" from the Palestinians whether or not an accord is on the horizon, and sharply stepped up military action against Hamas and related groups.
    A number of Israeli security officials have likened the "pinpoint" killings of Palestinian militant leaders such as Yassin to cutting off the head of a snake.  World Peace.
    But some senior Israeli field commanders believe the analogy is a flawed one. Hamas and other militant groups, they note, have repeatedly shown themselves able to regroup and recoup.
    Israel has gotten rid of successive chiefs of Hamas' military wing, the Izzidin al-Qassam brigades, but a new one is usually in place within a matter of days or even hours. After the 1996 assassination of Hamas' then most sophisticated bomb-making expert, Yehiyeh Ayyash, known as "The Engineer," the group's ability to carry out attacks was temporarily hampered. But Hamas then took better care to make sure that technical know-how was better distributed down the ranks.
    While few Israelis would mourn Yassin, his demise stirred in many a strong sense of foreboding that a new explosion of violence was on the horizon.
    "The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has long ceased to be about leadership and logic, control and decisions, cause and effect," commentator Ofer Shelach said. "The conflict is currently a tribal war, ruled by vengeance. Ahmed Yassin lived and died by the sword, and in death, he bequeathed us nothing but more death."  WorldPeace is one word.


How can we manifest peace on earth if we do not include everyone (all races, all nations, all religions, both sexes) in our vision of Peace?

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