by Emad Drimly, Saud Abu Ramadan
RAMALLAH, Sept. 17 (Xinhua) -- The Israeli assassination of an activist of Islamic Hamas movement's armed wing Izeldein al-Qassam Brigades in northern West Bank city of Tulkarem on Friday outraged the Palestinians, who considered the killing "a serious Israeli escalation."
Hamas movement, which rules the Gaza Strip, considered the killing of Eyad Shelbaneh, 38, inside his bedroom in Noor Shams refugee camp in Tulkarem as "the fruit of the direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, which were launched in Washington on September 2.
However, the Palestinian National Authority (PNA), which rules the West Bank, said in an official statement sent to reporters that the killing of Shelbaneh at his home "will weaken the credibility of the negotiations that hadn't led to any progress yet."
The Gaza-based Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told a news conference following Shelbaneh's killing that "the assassination of Eyad Shelbaneh is a serious Israeli escalation and one of the fruits of the negotiations which gave the occupation the cover to commit this crime."
"This crime aims at erasing resistance against the occupation and breaks its power to pave the road for the conspiracy of the assassination, where Fatah leaders and some Arab parties were also involved," said Abu Zuhri, referring to President Mahmoud Abbas' secular party, but didn't name the Arab parties.
On behalf of his Islamic movement, Abu Zuhri vowed "a selective response to the assassination which would never succeed in breaking the strength of resistance." He accused the international community for having double standard position by keeping silent for the outlawed assassinations."
He also held the PNA for being responsible for the assassination together with Israel, adding "Shelbaneh had been detained seven times by the Fatah authorities' security apparatuses, where the last time he was arrested on August 31, and then he was chased."
Palestinian sources and eyewitnesses had said earlier on Friday that an Israeli army force assassinated Eyad Shelbaneh, the commander of al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas armed wing in Noor Shams refugee camp near Tulkarem in northern West Bank.
The witnesses said that an elite Israeli army force detonated a bomb at the door of Shelbaneh's house, arrested his brother who was at the house, then stormed Eyad's bedroom, and then shot him with three gunshots, one on the neck and two in the chest. The soldiers took the body and left the place.
Meanwhile, al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas armed wing said in a leaflet emailed to reporters that "Israel is holding the complete responsibility for this awful crime and will be also responsible for the consequences."
"The assassination of Shelbaneh also reveals the ugly face of Fatah authorities which is also responsible for cooperating with the occupation in killing him," the Hamas armed wing said in a leaflet.
The less-influential Islamic Jihad (Holy War) movement condemned Shelbaneh's killing, adding that "the assassination was committed under the cover of the negotiations and amid the Palestinian Authority's continuation of harassment against the men of resistance."
The PNA had immediately condemned Shelbaneh's killing, where PNA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad considered the assassination as " an Israeli action that would weaken the direct peace talks' credibility with Israel, which is basically weak and shaky."
"The ongoing Israeli ignoring of the needed deserves, mainly the complete cessation of settlement in the Palestinian territories and ending all military incursions in the West Bank cities and towns would endanger the international efforts to make a progress in the peace process," said Fayyad's statement.
Israeli and Palestinian negotiators held two rounds of direct talks over permanent status issues. The first round of talks was launched in Washington on Sept. 2, and the second round was held in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh and in Jerusalem, the talks had not achieved any progress.
An Israeli army spokesman has meanwhile told Israel Radio in a statement that the Israeli army forces killed Eyad Shelbaneh. The spokesman claimed that Shelbaneh walked close to the soldiers, who felt that their life were threatened and shot him dead. Shelbaneh wasn't armed when he was in his room.
In late August, Hamas claimed responsibility for killing four Israelis and wounding three others in two deadly shooting attacks near the West Bank cities of Hebron and Ramallah. The attacks were carried out as the Israelis and the Palestinians were preparing to head to Washington for the direct peace talks.