Shehade was high on Israel most-wanted list
GAZA CITY (CNN) -- Israel considered Salah Shehade -- killed in an airstrike early Tuesday at his Gaza City home -- one of its most-wanted terrorists.
Shehade was the leader in Gaza of the Izzedine al Qassam, the military wing of the militant Islamic group Hamas, which has been labeled a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department.
Israeli sources said Shehade was responsible for hundreds of attacks perpetrated by the military wing of Hamas over the past two years, since the beginning of the current intifada in September 2000.
Among those attacks, the sources said:
The sources called Shehade the "spirit" behind all the activities of Hamas during the past two years in Gaza and the West Bank. In addition, they said, he oversaw Hamas field commanders in Gaza and the West Bank and defined the policy of terror attacks by Hamas.
Shehade was also the link between Hamas in Gaza and the West Bank and neighboring Arab countries, they said.
The sources accused Shehade of being responsible for arming the military wing of Hamas with mortars.
"Since no finger by the Palestinian Authority was ever lifted to arrest Hamas senior militants," the Israelis decided to do it themselves, one Israeli source said.
Gideon Meir, a senior Israeli Foreign Ministry official, called the operation that killed Shehade a "precise Israeli airstrike against a known terrorist."
"He has much Israeli blood on his hands," Meir said, adding that Israel is attempting to protect its citizens, including women and children, from terror attacks. "What we are doing is self-defense."
A statement Tuesday from Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon called Shehade "maybe the most senior Hamas member of the military wing."
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