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Israel weighs hitting Hamas after bombing

Written by: Staff

JERUSALEM, Apr 18 (Reuters) Israel's Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert convened top advisers today to decide on a possible military strike on the new Hamas-led Palestinian Authority after a suicide bomber killed nine people in Tel Aviv.

Hamas stirred Israeli and Western ire by calling yesterday's attack by fellow militant group Islamic Jihad an act of ''self defence''.

It was the first Palestinian bombing in Israel since Hamas took power three weeks ago, and the deadliest since 2004, prompting some to call for a full-scale armed response.

''To destroy a terrorist state -- I certainly think that is what's required,'' Roni Bar-On, a senior official in Olmert's centrist Kadima Party, told Israel Radio.

''We have a very wide array of potential targets. They (Hamas) cannot be allowed to hide beneath the ugly wings of Islamic Jihad.'' Olmert declared the Palestinian Authority, formed under 1993 interim accords, a ''terrorist entity'' after Hamas won January elections. But Israel has so far refrained from assaults on the Palestinian Authority's new leadership or institutions.

Olmert, who has yet to form a government following Israeli elections last month, is under pressure not to undermine US-led efforts to isolate the Hamas government diplomatically and financially unless it embraces peacemaking.

''Ehud Olmert today faces a significant test of leadership,'' commentator Ben Caspit wrote in Maariv daily. Targeting Hamas leaders risked being ''self-defeating at the height of an impressive international campaign'' against the group, he said.


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