An Israeli missile hit a motorcycle in Gaza City early this morning, killing a founder and senior official of Hamas’ military wing, along with his aide and a bystander.

The Israeli military said its forces carried out a necessary strike against terrorists who were plotting attacks against civilians, while a PLO spokesperson called the attack a “war crime.”

The blast killed Wael Nassar, 38, one of the founders of Hamas’ military wing Izzedine al-Qassam. His assistant, Mohammed Sarsour, 31, and an unidentified bystander were also killed, Hamas said. Hospital officials said seven people were slightly wounded, including a woman and three children.

Witnesses told news organizations they saw a flash in the sky and then the motorcycle exploded, indicating an Israeli missile strike. The residents said they did not see any Israeli helicopters in the sky, though they heard an unmanned Israeli plane.

Israel’s Security Cabinet has a declared policy of targeting suicide bombers as well as the technical staff and leaders who dispatch them.

An IDF spokeswoman said the attack targeted “two senior Hamas commanders who were responsible for many attacks against Israelis, including suicide bombings, and were planning further attacks.”

Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a senior Arafat aide reached by cellphone at the PLO leader’s battered Ramallah compound, said to WND: “This was an Israeli killing, a war crime. This man was killed by a missile using American equipment. How can the international community accept such a thing? Sharon and his government cannot be allowed to continue their aggression and kill innocent Palestinians whenever they feel like it.”

Nassar was arrested in March 1996 by Arafat’s Presidential Guard following intense American and Israeli pressure. He was held at Arafat’s private villa in Gaza City and was later transferred to Gaza’s Central Prison, but was released by Arafat at the start of the intifada. Nassar had admitted to being active in Hamas and to planning several suicide attacks.

One of Nassar’s brothers was killed when Israeli forces assassinated Hamas leader Abdel Aziz Rantisi on April 17, and seven other relatives were killed in earlier clashes with Israeli forces.

The IDF has been targeting Hamas strongholds in Gaza, with assassinations of its leaders and the destruction of weapons-smuggling tunnels, ahead of a possible pullout from the area as part of Sharon’s unilateral disengagement plan.

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