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Terrorism & Security

Hamas calls for 'day of wrath' after senior official killed by Israel

The group says suicide attacks may begin again in response to Thursday's Israeli airstrike on the home of Hamas leader Nizar Rayan.

By / January 2, 2009

Palestinian firefighters worked at the the remains of the home of top Hamas official Nizar Rayan Jan. 1. An Israeli airstrike killed Mr. Rayan and several family members.

Hatem Moussa/AP

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Hamas threatened reprisals against Israel, including the possibility of new suicide attacks, after an Israeli airstrike killed one of the Palestinian group's top officials Thursday. The ongoing fighting has also sparked concern in the UN about a humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

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Agence France-Presse reports that Hamas called for a "day of wrath" in response to the death of Nizar Rayan, a party hardliner and military leader. Several of Mr. Rayan's wives and children were also killed in Thursday's attack.

Rayan is the most senior Islamist figure killed by Israel since Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi in 2004 and Hamas again warned that it could resume suicide operations against Israel for the first time since January 2005 to avenge his death.
"After the last crime, all options are open to counter this aggression, including martyr operations against Zionist targets everywhere," Hamas official Ismail Radwan vowed after the attack.

Rayan is the highest-profile casualty of the current hostilities between Israel and Hamas, which began a week ago. Haaretz reports that including the latest Israeli airstrikes Friday morning against Hamas targets, Palestinian deaths number at 425, with some 2,000 more injured. Also on Friday, Palestinian militias launched some 20 rockets at southern Israel, causing two minor injuries, reports The Jerusalem Post. The Post writes that three Israeli civilians and one Israeli soldier have been killed in the fighting.

The Los Angeles Times reports that Rayan was "a hard-line theologian and military commander" for Hamas, and that his death is "a clear loss on multiple levels."

He was uniquely popular and respected among the military wing; unlike most of the movement's civilian leadership, Rayan fought alongside troops in battles with Israeli soldiers and tanks.
He advocated suicide bombings, and his own son, 22, died in such an attack on an Israeli settlement.
Although most senior Hamas leaders went into hiding when the Israeli air barrages began, Rayan made a point of living openly in his home in the Jabaliya refugee camp. He encouraged other leaders to follow suit.
"He refused to leave his house; he preferred to be a martyr," the Hamas official said.
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