Hamas rallies troops in Gaza after leader slain

February 18, 2010 12:36


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BEIT LAHIYA, Gaza Strip — Hamas militants pulled out all the stops to honor a leader they say was assassinated by Israel: Masked gunmen at a rally stomped on a large Israeli flag, unfurled a huge poster of him from a high-rise facade and led a crowd of 3,000 in a collective oath of revenge.

The memorial for Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in this northern Gaza town late Wednesday was meant to boost morale and project strength, after his swift death in a Dubai hotel room last month exposed Hamas' vulnerability. Key Hamas leaders have been killed by Israel over the years, including in targeted missile strikes in Gaza.

The assassination of al-Mabhouh, who was suspected of funneling weapons from Iran to Hamas-ruled Gaza, also had repercussions for Israel after Dubai police released photos of 11 suspected assassins who carried European passports.

Names on the passports matched seven people living in Israel, raising the possibility that Israel's Mossad spy agency stole the identities of its own citizens to carry out the hit.

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