msnbc.com news services
updated 3/22/2004 1:17:07 PM ET 2004-03-22T18:17:07

Israel’s assassination of Hamas spiritual leader Sheik Ahmed Yassin was a huge gamble.

It could either weaken Hamas and drive its leadership underground or galvanize Palestinian hatred toward Israel and end up strengthening the Islamic militant group, according to analysts.

The divergent views were evident from the reaction Monday to Yassin's death.

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"The battle is open and war between us and them is open. They are the killers of prophets and today they killed an Islamic symbol. It’s a war on Islam...what happened was beyond the assassination of Sheik Ahmed Yassin, they wanted to assassinate the Palestinian cause."

Senior Hamas leader Abdel-Aziz al-Rantissi

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"The state of Israel this morning hit the first and foremost leader of the Palestinian terrorist murderers. I want to make clear the war on terrorism is not over and will continue daily everywhere."

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon

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"This is a crazy and very dangerous act. It opens the door wide to chaos. Yassin was known for his moderation and he was controlling Hamas. Therefore this is a dangerous, cowardly act."

Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia

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"The United States urges all sides to remain calm and exercise restraint."

State Department spokesman Lou Fintor

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"Let’s remember that Hamas is a terrorist organization and that Sheik Yassin has himself, personally, we believe, been involved in terrorist planning."

U.S. National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice

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"Even if in the short term there will be a harsh response from Hamas, which is definitely possible, in the long term the effect will be to rein in Hamas and the rest of the terror organizations."

Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

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"War, war, war on the sons of Zion. An eye for an eye. There will be a response within hours, God willing."

Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades

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"This concern [of major militant reprisals] exists but we have to remember that terror does not look for a reason or timing and strikes us without mercy on a clear day and not for one or another reason."

Brig. Ruth Yaron, Israeli military spokeswoman

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"We need to tell the Palestinians that if you choose terror, you will have nothing. We will destroy you and you won’t be able to live. But if you cooperate and are ready to talk to us and return to the negotiating table, then the way is open."

Infrastructure Minister Yosef Paritzky of the Shinui Party

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"I think that this is very, very dangerous for us. We are talking here about opening a Pandora’s box. We are now counting backwards to, God forbid, the next terror attack against us, and the question is how many Israelis, how many Jews have to be killed for this irresponsible act."

Yossin Beilin, Israeli opposition politician

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"This is an embarrassment to Egypt. Egypt was directly involved in bringing Hamas and Jihad closer to the Palestinian authority and bringing about a cease-fire. Targeting Yassin is a direct blow to these efforts."

Dia’a Rashwan, an expert on radical Islam with Egypt’s Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies.

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"It (Israel) is not entitled to go for this kind of unlawful killing, and we therefore condemn it. It’s unacceptable, it’s unjustified, and it’s very unlikely to achieve its objective."

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw

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"At a time when it is important to mobilize for the relaunch of the peace process, such acts can only fuel the cycle of violence."

French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin

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"The policy of the European Union has been consistently condemnation of extra-judicial killing. In this particular case, I think the condemnation has to be stronger... This is not going to be a constructive, a positive contribution. It’s going to be very, very bad news for the peace process."

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana

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"A group of pyromaniacs made this decision in the government of Israel."

Israel Arab parliamentarian Ahmed Tibi

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"I think in the short term there will be a flare-up, but in the longer term every Palestinian official who leads terror, who instigates it, will know that sooner or later he will pay a price."

Israeli Agriculture Minister Israel Katz

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The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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