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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Damascus-based Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal is a legitimate target for assassination, Public Security Minister Avi Dichter said on Monday.
However, the former head of the Shin Bet, who spoke to Army Radio, stressed that there was no button that could be pressed to make the problem go away.
"Khaled Mashaal is not immune, and he is well aware of this," Dichter said, referring to Sunday's cabinet meeting, in which it was decided that the IDF would resume targeted killings against politicians as well as military commanders.
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According to Dichter, even current PA Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh had been a target in the past due to his proximity to slain Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin. "If Haniyeh is part of a leadership that is planning terror attacks then he, too, is definitely a target," he added.
"There is no lever that you can pull - targeted killings or whatever else - that simply solves the problem," he said. "The fight against terror consists of various tactics and the creation of deterrence. This is what will reduce and ultimately stop Kassams and terror attacks."
Dichter referred to Muhammad Def, one of the leaders of Hamas's armed wing, who was targeted many times and yet remained alive, saying that, "the last time I left him he was severely wounded. To the best of my memory he never recovered from those injuries, although he is very dangerous. He has become a symbol - because of Israeli blood spilt. But at this moment we are not preoccupied with settling old scores."
Regarding the dilemma of hitting civilians during targeted killings, the former Shin Bet head said that "This sort of fighting, in which terrorists use civilians as human shields, is the most difficult... and most frustrating."
"Occasionally there is an arch-terrorist who is surrounded by innocents, and you refrain from targeting him. I am convinced that both the IDF and the Shin Bet act according to these guidelines," he said.
Finally, Dichter added that Israel hadn't exhausted its options. "I don't want to simplify it because there is an entire series of [steps we can take]," he said, adding that he hopes Israel would not be forced to utilize all of them.
The public security minister also claimed that the Second Lebanon War had boosted Israel's stature. "In Lebanon we gained deterrence," Dichter said. "Nasrallah announced that had he anticipated the Israeli response, he would not have kidnapped the two soldiers. Deterrence is key, despite mistakes and mishaps."