(CNSNews.com) - The Palestinian Islamic Jihad has warned Israel that the coming days will be the "blackest" in its history, following the weekend assassination of three men, including the head of the terrorist group's "military wing" in the Gaza Strip.
Israel has heightened its security alert in the south of the country, closing border crossings from Gaza.
The warning came from Islamic Jihad leader Abdullah al-Shami, speaking during funerals for the three men, who were killed when an Israeli helicopter fired a rocket into their car.
The funerals were attended by thousands of Arabs, and gunmen fired automatic weapons into the air, according to eyewitness accounts.
The rocket attack was a "targeted" killing - the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) spokesman's unit said in a statement the vehicle carried "senior Islamic Jihad terrorists who are responsible for planning a number of terrorist attacks against Israeli civilian and military targets."
One of the three men was Mahmoud Juda, described as the commander of Islamic Jihad's "Al-Quds [Jerusalem] Brigade." Another was a member of the brigade and the third was his cousin.
Islamic Jihad calls the brigade its "military wing," although a Jerusalem-based news service argued Sunday that the "military wings" of Islamic Jihad as well as those of Hamas (Izzadin al-Kassam Brigade) and Yasser Arafat's Fatah (Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade) were "no more separate from the main terror group than, for example, the IDF is separate from the Israeli government."
"Their special designation is employed by these terrorist organizations to create an artificial distance from, and deniability for terror attacks," it said.
The most recent attack for which the Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility occurred on Friday, when a suicide bomber detonated his charge near an IDF jeep in central Gaza. Only the bomber was killed.
Meanwhile, Israel's highest court has ordered the suspension of building work on a section of the controversial security fence the government is building in a bid to keep Arab terrorists from entering Israeli population centers.
The week-long suspension is the result of an appeal by the residents of a handful of villages in the Palestinian Authority (PA) self-rule area, who object to the fence being built on their land.
Israel's Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz reacted angrily to the court ruling, saying any delay in the construction work could enable would-be suicide bombers from entering Israeli cities.
Last week the International Court of Justice held three days of hearings on the legality of the fence.
The PA charges that the barrier - some of which runs or will run through land claimed for a future independent state - not only seriously inconveniences many people but also is an Israeli attempt to prejudge any final settlement to the territorial dispute.
Israel argues that the fence is a legitimate way to prevent terrorists from carrying out the type of attacks that have left more than 900 Israelis dead since September 2000.
Another tactic Israel has used against terrorism is the "targeted" killing of those believed to be responsible for past attacks or to be planning future ones, like the weekend strike in Gaza.
After an Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade suicide bomber blew up a bus in Jerusalem on Feb. 22, killing eight people, reports last week said Israeli leaders had decided to resume "targeted" killings.
The U.S. State Department has opposed the "targeted" killing policy, while acknowledging that Israel has the right to defend its citizens against terrorist attacks.
"While Israel does have the right to defend itself, we have also made clear that Israel needs to consider the consequences of any actions that it might be contemplating," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said last January, amid reports at the time that Israel was considering assassinating Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin.
The U.S. has itself used the tactic to kill terrorists, notably in November 2002, when a U.S. missile destroyed a civilian car in Yemen, killing six men, including Qaed Senyan al-Harthi, a senior al Qaeda member suspected in the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole in the Yemeni port of Aden. Seventeen U.S. sailors were killed in the attack.
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