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An Islamist website published a statement on Monday purporting to come from an Al Qaida-linked group vowing revenge on the United States and its allies over Israel's assassination of Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin.

"We tell Palestinians that Sheikh Yassin's blood was not spilt in vain and call on all legions of Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigades to avenge him by attacking the tyrant of the age, America, and its allies," said the statement by Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigade carried by the al ansar forum website.

Yassin was killed in a missile strike by Israelli helicopter gunships in Gaza City early on Monday.

The group, which aligns itself to Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaida network, had claimed this month's train bombings in Spain. There was no means of verifying the statement.

Earlier Monday, the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah fired anti-tank rockets and mortar shells at three Israel Defense Forces outposts on the Har Dov area on the Lebanese border Monday, hours after the assassination of Yassin.

The IDF said Israeli aircraft bombed Hezbollah outposts in response, and that its artillery batteries returned fire.

No injuries were reported.

Before the exchange of fire in the north, Hezbollah head Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah said Israel would pay the highest price yet for the assassination of Yassin.

"The Zionists will discover soon that they have committed a very big folly, to add to their series of previous follies," Nasrallah said in a live appearance on the group's al-Manar TV.

Hamas vows to 'cut off' Sharon's headHamas leaders vowed Monday to "cut off" the head of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. "Sharon has opened the gates of hell and nothing will stop us from cutting off his head," leaders of the radical Islamic group vowed.

"Words cannot describe the emotion of anger and hate inside our hearts," said Hamas official Ismail Haniyeh, a close associate of Yassin in Gaza. He said that "the enemy should expect a response that will turn the ground under his feet to hell ... All of Palestine will turn into a volcano that will burn up the enemies."

Top Hamas official Abdel Aziz Rantisi said "Yassin is a man in a nation, and a nation in a man. And the retaliation of this nation, will be of the size of this man. You will see deeds not words." Rantisi himself was wounded in an Israeli airstrike in June 2003, when a helicopter launched missiles at his car.

The group vowed that Islamic groups around the world will join together to retaliate for the assassination and implied that the United States could be a target.

"The Zionists didn't carry out their operation without getting the consent of the terrorist American Administration, and it must take responsibility for this crime," Hamas said in a statement faxed to The Associated Press. "All the Muslims of the world will be honored to join in on the retaliation for this crime," the statement said.

The threat against the United States would represent a change of tactics for the militant group, which has always said its fight was with Israel and not with the United States.

Tens of thousands of Palestinians, many in tears, poured into the streets of Gaza City immediately after the strike. Gunmen fired into the air and militants threw dozens of pipe-bombs to express their outrage. The Palestinian Authority declared three days of mourning.

The Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, a militant group connected to PA Chairman Yasser Arafat's Fatah faction, declared war on Israelis in response to the assassination. "War, war, war on the sons of Zion. An eye for an eye. There will be a response within hours, God willing," the group said in a statement.

The armed wing of Fatah said in a statement that "he who signed the order to assassinate Yassin has effectively signed the death warrant of hundreds of Israelis." It said that all Zionists, both in Israel and abroad, is now an assassination target for the organization.

PA officials condemned the attack. "This is a crazy and very dangerous act. It opens the door wide to chaos. Yassin is known for his moderation and he was controlling Hamas and therefore this is a dangerous, cowardly act," said Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia.

"Assassinations, incursions, walls, will not produce peace and security, on the contrary, it will just add fuel to the fire," said Cabinet Minister Saeb Erekat.

Sufyan Abu Zaydeh, a Palestinian Authority official, said the killing of Yassin was reminiscent of Israel's assassination of Hamas bombmaker Yehiye Ayash in Gaza in January 1996. Hamas responded to the killing of Ayash, nicknamed "The Engineer" by Israel, with a series of deadly suicide bombings inside Israel that killed close to sixty people in the space of 10 days. Yassin's killing, Abu Zaydeh said, would spark "a harsh wave of attacks."