Hamas militants vow revenge after 2 shot by Israeli soldiersSeptember 11, 1998
Web posted at: 10:35 p.m. EDT (0235 GMT)
HEBRON, West Bank (CNN) -- Two leading figures of the military wing of Hamas were killed in a shoot-out with Israeli troops near Hebron Thursday. Israel sealed off its borders with the West Bank and Gaza Strip amid fears of possible terrorist retaliation.
In response to the shootings, Hamas' spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin vowed his movement's armed brigades would strike Israel. In 1996, when a Hamas bomb maker was killed in an operation widely attributed to Israel, Hamas militants responded with a series of suicide bombings.
The dead men were identified as Imad and Adel Awadallah, brothers who were leading figures Izzedine al Qassam, the militant wing of the Islamic group. Israel had long sought to capture both men.
At a rally in Gaza, some 300 Hamas supporters rallied, distributing leaflets which recalled the wave of suicide bombings that killed 57 people in 1996 following the death of Yahya Ayyash, a Hamas bomb maker known as "The Engineer."
"The revenge will be like an earthquake," one leaflet read.
West Bank, Gaza sealed
The Israeli army clamped a strict closure on the West Bank and Gaza, barring more than 2.4 million Palestinians from entering Israel.
The new tensions came as U.S. Mideast envoy Dennis Ross was in the region, trying to close the gaps between Israel and the Palestinians on a West Bank troop withdrawal.
The Awadallah brothers were killed Thursday afternoon in a house near the village of Taibeh, west of Hebron.
A Palestinian witness said that a truck and four vans carrying dozens of people in civilian clothes drove up to the house. The witness, Shokali Fetaftah, said that after about 10 minutes he heard shots and Israeli army jeeps and ambulances arrived.
The army said a confrontation broke out between Israeli forces and the two men after shots and an explosion were heard in the house. The army said it found weapons in the hideout.
Israel radio said the Awadallah brothers were believed to be preparing an attack in Israel when they were killed.
Imad Awadallah had escaped from a Palestinian jail last month. He had been held on suspicion that he killed a fellow Hamas fugitive, Mohiyedine Sharif, in a fight over power and money.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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