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Hamas member's killing flies under Israeli public's radar

Latify Abu Shelbayeh holds a portrait of her husband Iyad, a Hamas member, in the bedroom of their home during his funeral in the Nour Shams refugee camp near the West Bank town of Tulkarm on Sept. 17, 2010.

Heidi Levine/Sipa Press

TULKARM, West Bank - Israeli forces burst into the home of a senior member of Hamas early Friday morning and killed him with three bullets to the chest, though few Israelis know anything about it.

It appears to have been a "targeted killing," the first of a Hamas member in the West Bank for more than two years. Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad - no friend of Hamas - called it a "dangerous escalation" in tensions between Israelis and Palestinians.

The killing took place just a day after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton left the area following two days of peace talks between Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

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And it came just hours before Israelis celebrated Yom Kippur, the holiest of Jewish holidays. As a result, there was almost no news of the killing in Israeli media - no newspapers are published Saturday, and almost all Israeli broadcasting goes off the air at midday on Friday.

Hundreds of Palestinians did turn out as the body of Iyad Shilbayeh, 38, was borne through the streets of the Nur Shams refugee camp on the outskirts of this Palestinian town, 10 kilometres east of the Israeli seaside city of Netanya.

The fact that the camp is under the heavy thumb of Palestinian Authority security forces didn't prevent the people from shouting out slogans supporting their "martyr" and praising the armed struggle against Israel.

"Proceed, Hamas, proceed," they shouted. "You are the canon and we are the shells."

PA security forces have rounded up hundreds of suspected Hamas members following the drive-by killing last month of four Israeli settlers outside the southern West Bank City of Hebron, and the wounding of two other settlers in another attack in the north of the West Bank.

Mr. Shilbayeh had been among those detained and interrogated and was released only a week before his killing.

An Israeli military spokeswoman said that Mr. Shilbayeh was a Hamas military commander and that troops had entered his home at 3 am intending only to arrest him. They shot him, she said, when he moved in their direction after they had told him to halt.

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A large pool of blood could be seen on the rug at the foot of Mr. and Mrs. Shilbayeh's double bed, and the bedroom showed little signs of a struggle or any evidence of other bullets having been fired.

Hamas officials in Gaza said Mr. Shilbayeh's killing will be avenged, and as people in this camp trudged home following the interment, an Islamist member of the Palestinian Legislative Council could be heard telling someone over his cellphone that the funeral had been highly successful, with several hundred mourners in attendance.

Photo: Latify Abu Shelbayeh holds a portrait of her husband Iyad, a Hamas member, in the bedroom of their home during his funeral in the Nur Shams refugee camp near the West Bank town of Tulkarm on Sept. 17, 2010. (Heidi Levine/Sipa Press)

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About the Author
Global Affairs reporter

As Global Affairs Writer, Patrick Martin’s primary focus is on the turbulent Middle East, to which he travels regularly. He has twice been posted to the region – from 1991-95 and from 2008-12. More

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