A founder of Hamas in the Gaza Strip died Friday of a stroke after decades as an influential religious leader. He was 76. Muhammad Hassan Shama was one of the eight founders of Hamas in the 1980s. After his death, Hamas publicly announced Friday for the first time that Shama had been the leader of the secretive Shura Council, its top governing body.
According to the AP, the identity of the council’s members is kept secretly because of fears they could be targeted by Israel. On Friday, Hamas released a statement mourning Shama’s demise. Shama died, the group said, “after a long journey of jihad that he spent, along with Sheik Ahmed Yassin, in teaching, educating and promoting the noble cause of Islam and jihad.” Shama was born in 1935 in the city of Ashkelon, now in Israel, according to the Hamas statement.
He was detained and jailed repeatedly by Israel. In 1992, he was among some 400 Hamas men whom Israel deported to south Lebanon. They were later allowed back under international pressure.