(ABC) – Israeli army radio reports the army has been ordered to ‘completely wipe out’ the Palestinian Islamic militant group Hamas, a day after a suicide bomber killed 16 people on a Jerusalem bus.
Israeli helicopters killed nine Palestinians in strikes on militants after the bombing, leaving the US-backed peace “roadmap” in tatters.
Israeli Internal Security Minister Tzachi Hanegbi says no Hamas leader is safe.
The army order, which directs the military to use “whatever means necessary,” was issued following a meeting of Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz with the army’s top command shortly after the attack.
It is directed not only at the infrastructure of the organisation, but at its leadership, with everyone, “from the lowliest member to Sheikh Ahmad Yassin,” a Hamas founder and its spiritual guide, as a legitimate target.
The latest round of killings and retaliations began on Tuesday, when Israeli helicopter gunships fired missiles at the car of Hamas’ political leader, Abdul Aziz Rantissi, in a failed bid to kill him.
Mr Rantissi, who was lightly wounded in that attack, promised bloody revenge, which led to the bombing in Jerusalem.
It was claimed by Hamas’ armed wing, the Ezzedin al-Qassam Brigades.
The Israeli Cabinet has met to consider how to respond to that attack, amid reports that ministers will again raise the question of expelling Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat from the territories.