DAMASCUS (Reuters) - Syria accused Israel of terrorism after a bomb -- which Israeli security sources said Israel planted -- killed a Hamas official in Damascus on Sunday. Hamas vowed to retaliate.
"This terrorist act represents a grave development that Israel shoulders responsibility for, as it emphasizes its intention to shake security and stability in the region," the Syrian state news agency quoted an official source as saying.
A bomb killed Izz el-Deen al-Sheikh Khalil, 42, when he started the engine and an explosive charge under the driver's seat ripped through his SUV in the Az-Zahera neighborhood of Syria's capital, witnesses said. Three passers-by were wounded.
Palestinian sources in Gaza said Khalil was believed to be in charge of the group's military wing outside the Palestinian territories. Hamas sources in Beirut said he was a mid-level official. The Palestinian militant group vowed revenge.
Israel's Channel Two, citing unidentified security sources, said Israel was behind the car bombing.
"In off-the-record conversations there is confirmation that Israel is responsible for this morning's assassination of a senior Hamas official in Damascus," the television station said.
Were Israel to have carried out the attack, it would be a rare foray into Syria -- only the second in around 30 years.
A neighbor who identified himself only as Nabil said: "He (Khalil) said good morning to us like he does every day and then walked to his car.
"He got into the car and then the phone rang," Nabil said. After answering the phone, Khalil tried to start the car, he said. "We heard the explosion. We rushed toward his car and found him in pieces in the back seat."
The blast shattered windows in high-rise buildings and damaged a nearby car. A spokesman in Gaza for Hamas -- an Islamist group bent on Israel's destruction which has carried out dozens of suicide bombings in Israel -- said the killing was "a cowardly crime by the Zionist Mossad," a reference to Israel's spy agency.