Rantissi named as Hamas chief for Gaza Strip as Bush says Israel has right to defend itself
Dr. Abdel Aziz al Rantissi, was named as Hamas chief in Gaza Strip, following the assassination of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin. Al Rantissi vowed on Tuesday that his movement would strike Israelis "everywhere." Yassin opposed to launch attacks on Israeli targets outside Palestine.
"We will fight them everywhere. We will hit them everywhere. We will chase them everywhere. We will teach them lessons in confrontation," Rantissi told thousands of mourners gathered in Gaza's main soccer stadium a day after the killing of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin.
Rantissi, a medical doctor who has served as Hamas's chief spokesman, was named earlier as Hamas chief for the Gaza Strip, taking on some of Yassin's duties.
Rantissi said he emerged from secret elections as the chief of Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Initially Rantissi said he was the new head of the Hamas political bureau, giving the impression he was replacing Mashaal, but Hamas leaders later clarified he was only in charge of Hamas in Gaza Strip.
Other sources, however, said Khaled Mashaal, Hamas' politburo chief living in exile, was named overall leader, succeeding Yassin.
Reiterating Hamas pledge to avenge Yassin's assassination, Rantissi said Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and other Israeli leaders "will never feel security or safety."
"My dear people, you who were displaced by the Jews from your cities and villages, you will return to your villages and cities through fighting, because we don't have any other strategic option...Resistance is continuing," he said.
Meanwhile, U.S. President George W. Bush said on Tuesday Israel had the right to defend itself against Hamas but urged the Israeli government to keep "the consequences in mind."
"Israel has the right to defend herself from terror, and, as she does so, I hope she keeps consequences in mind," Bush said. It was Bush's first personal comments to the assassination of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin.
Abd al Aziz al Rantissi
Abd al-Aziz Rantissi was born in 1947 in Yubna, near Jaffa. In 1948, his family moved to the Gaza Strip.
Rantissi studied in Egypt for nine years and received a degree in pediatric medicine. While there, he was influenced by the philosophy of the Muslim Brotherhood.
In 1976, he returned to Gaza and became part of the Muslim Brotherhood movement.
Rantissi joined the Faculty of Science at the Islamic University of Gaza and also became Chief Pediatrician in the Government Hospital in Khan Yunis (76-86).
In December 1987, four residents of the Jabalya refugee camp in Gaza Strip were killed in a traffic accident. According to Rantissi, he joined with Sheikh Ahmad Yassin, 'Abdel Fattah Dukhan, Mohammed Shama', Dr. Ibrahim al-Yazour, Issa al-Najjar, and Salah Shehadeh and instructed people to exit the mosques chanting "Allah Akbar" (God is great). This was how the first intifada began, said Rantissi, under the leadership of what would subsequently be known as Hamas.
In December 1992, he was expelled to Lebanon, as part of the expulsion of 416 Hamas and Islamic Jihad operatives, and emerged as chief spokesman of those expelled to southern Lebanon. Upon his return in 1993, he was arrested, but later released.
Rantissi was detained several times by the Palestinian Authority for his criticism of the PA and Yasser Arafat, but in most cases, was released after a short period.
After the return of Sheikh Yassin to the Gaza Strip in October 1997, Yassin, together with senior operatives including Rantissi, reorganized Hamas leadership in the Gaza Strip to restore its activity.
In mid-1999, following his release from a PA prison, Rantissi returned to his position as "right hand" to Yassin. During talks between Hamas leadership in Gaza Strip and abroad and and the PA regarding ceasefire with Israel, Rantissi voiced his harsh opposition to the move.
Abd al-Aziz Rantissi replaced Salah Shehadeh and Ibriahim Maqadma, after they were assassinated by Israel, as the contact person between the military wing and the political wing of Hamas.
Israel unsuccessfully attempted to assasinate Rantissi on June 10, 2003.
© 2004 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)