Gideon Ezra named Hamas' political bureau chief Khalid Mishal as the next target on Sunday, barely seconds after Dr al-Rantisi's funeral procession got underway and before he was buried.

The Israeli minister threatened Mishal with "an identical fate" to the Islamist resistance movement's spokesman in the Palestinian territories and the wheel-chair bound Shaikh Ahmad Yasin.

Although Mishal lives in Syria, the Israeli minister vowed that his "fate will be identical to that of al-Rantisi. When the opportunity comes to strike at Damascus, we will do it."

Ezra, the minister for parliamentary relations, made the remark at the weekly cabinet meeting – comments published while tens of thousands followed a huge funeral procession..

University students in Egypt's
capital condemn al-Rantisi murder

Mishal has emerged as the undisputed senior figure of Hamas after al-Rantisi was assassinated in an Israeli air strike in the movement's Gaza stronghold late Saturday.

Funeral procession

Tens of thousands of Palestinians took to the street - following the procession from Gaza's Shifa hospital at the start of his funeral, less than twelve hours after his assassination.

Fighters from all the main Palestinian nationalist and Islamic
movements joined the cortege, unleashing volleys of gunfire into the air, as the coffin began its journey towards al-Rantissi's home in the northern Al-Nasr suburb of Gaza City.

His body was draped in a green Hamas flag and covered with
flowers. But his death has not stopped the Islamist organistaion from selecting his replacement. 

New spokesman unnamed

Hamas said on Sunday it had appointed a new leader but was not revealing his name, as Mishal himself suggested in an interview with Aljazeera.

Israeli Prime Minister also praised those who carried out the killings on Army Radio on Sunday.

Ariel Sharon promised the policy of "disengagement on the one hand and fighting on the other will continue".

His statement suggested Tel Aviv seeks to weaken Hamas ahead of any withdrawal from occupied Gaza so that the Islamists movement will be unable to fill a probable power vacuum in the region.

Demonstrations

Israel is the only country to have praised its own assassination and stands in stark contrast to the large number of countries that have condemned the action.

Spontaneous demonstrations
have begun around Arab world

Hundreds and thousands have marched in demonstrations in Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, Jordan and Egypt.

In the al-Barajna refugee camp in the southern district of Beirut dozens of Hamas supporter blocked the main road leading to the US embassy in protest.

In Rabat, leaders of the Islamic Justice and Development party and the Moroccan Association for Human Rights were among hundreds who began a spontaneous protest.