Sheikh Ahmed Yasin assassination - Recaps of events

Published March 22nd, 2004 - 02:00 GMT

Israeli occupation forces assassinated early Monday morning Sheikh Ahmed Yasin, the founder and spiritual leader of the Palestinian resistance group Hamas, triggering an immediate outcry across occupied Palestine and the Arab world.  

 

An Israeli helicopter fired missiles at crippled Yasin and his entourage while on their way back home following the dawn prayers. The Israeli public radio said Sharon gave the green light to the assassination and personally supervised it.  

 

One witness who lives near the mosque told reporters what happened moments after the attack. "I looked to see where Shaikh Ahmad Yasin was," he said. "He was lying on the ground and his chair was destroyed. People there darted left and right. Then another two missiles landed."  

 

Yasin's body was evacuated to Gaza City's Shifa hospital. “Sheikh Yassin was dead when he came to hospital,” Doctor Gomaa El-Saqa, of El-Shifaa said. Reports indicated that at least nine of Sheikh Yassin’s associates where also killed Monday in the Israeli air strike while two of his sons were wounded.  

 

Thousands of angry Palestinians immediately poured into the streets of Gaza and marched towards the home of Sheikh Yassin and El-Shifaa hospital.  

 

It should be noted that the aging spiritual leader of Hamas has been the target of several Israeli assassination attempts.  

 

On September 6, 2003 a F-16 fighter jet fired several missiles at a three-story building in Al-Rimal neighborhood in Gaza City where Sheikh Yassein was but he survived with just a small wound to his hand.  

 

Factions vow revenge 

The Israeli attack triggered an immediate retaliation threat from Hamas leaders. 

 

“The assassination of Sheikh Yassin will break the doors of hell loose,” Ismail Abu Haniya, a leading figure of Hamas said. “Sheikh Yassin lived for Palestine and Jerusalem and always prayed for martyrdom,” he said, with tears in his eyes. “The Zionist entity has crossed all line by assassinating Sheikh Yassin,” warned the Hamas leader.  

 

“War is now open with the Zionist,” senior Hamas political leader Abdul Aziz Al-Rantissi told Al-Arabiya satellite channel. “They know it's opened, there will be no revenge, it's an open war,” Rantissi said later in English in a Gaza street to a background of chants from thousands of Palestinians demanding revenge.  

 

"Inside Palestine, there will be no security for the Zionists and Jews," al-Rantissi vowed.  

 

"With this crime, Sharon, the despicable, sought to kill off the rights of the Palestinian people to a homeland, to holy places and to return" for refugees, al-Rantissi said. "But I tell Sharon and other leaders of the Zionist gangs that they will not succeed."  

 

Al-Rantissi condemned what he called a "war against Islam" in Palestine and Iraq and urged Muslims "to wake from their sleep, to return to reason and make the earth tremble under the feet of the Zionists."  

 

Hamas leader Mohammed Ghazal expressed to Al Bawaba his anger at the killing, calling the assassination “another crime in a series of crimes on the Israeli criminal record.”  

 

“This action will have a very bad impact on Israel. Hamas will return stronger and more organized…this assassination will make Hamas even more popular amongst the Palestinians. The assassination has proven that Israel is not interested in going back to the negotiating table, which will convince the Palestinian public that resistance is the only way to liberation. Killing an old (60+) and crippled man has proven that Israel has a skewed sense of logic and no sense of morality when dealing with the Palestinians.” Ghazal added.  

 

Hamas military wing vowed to kill hundreds of Zionists in “earthquake-like revenge” following the assassination.  

 

“Those who have taken the decision to kill Sheikh Yassin signed the death warrant for hundreds of Zionists,” Ezzedine Al-Qassam Brigades said in a statement.  

 

Fatah military wing also pledged an unprecedented response to the assassination “within the coming few hours”.  

 

“The head of our hit list is Sharon himself and his henchmen” said Abu Qusayee, a leader of Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. The group said “thousands” of Zionists would be targeted in retaliation, naming Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz as its prime target.  

 

It exhorted all Palestinian resistance factions to "proclaim a relentless war against the Zionist entity.” “We promise the Palestinian people that we will avenge the assassinations of the Nazi terrorists," read the statement.  

 

Zakariya Zubaidi, a prominent leader within group, stated to Al Bawaba that Israel “will have to pay a huge price for this crime…our group will retaliate unorthodoxly.”  

 

“The assassination of Sheikh Ahmad Yassin will not weaken the coordination between the Palestinian factions. Hamas, Al Aqsa, Islamic Jihad as well as others are grassroots movements that will continue to exist even if all their leaders are killed,” Zubaidi concluded.  

 

“The heinous crime is considered a rebirth of the Palestinian Intifada against occupation,” said Hussein Al-Sheikh, a Fatah leader, warning the response would be “shuddering with earthquake-like effect”.  

 

He stressed that Israel's assassination of crippled Sheikh Yassin “would force the region into a new cycle of violence and bloodshed that has not ever witnessed.” The Fatah official denied the assassination would put an end to the Palestinian resistance against Israel.  

 

“It is a message with political regional and international implications, on top of which that resistance is the option for Palestinians,” he averred. 

 

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) described the assassination of Yassin as a “strong boost” to resistance operations against the "Zionist entity."  

 

“Israel is now changing its aggression against the Palestinians and targeting the national symbols [of resistance]. This assassination has ended all possibilities towards a truce. The Palestinian factions are now united in fighting back this continued Israeli aggression until a full [Israeli] withdrawal from Gaza is achieved,” said Kayed Ghoul, member of the PLFP’s central committee.  

 

The Islamic Jihad movement also vowed that the move would “break the door of conflict and escalation loose”.  

 

“This criminal action shows the true intentions of the Zionists, which we well realize. We predict a grave escalation after this,” Khedr Habib, a leader of the Islamic Jihad, was quoted as saying.  

 

Asserting Sheikh Yassin was “not an ordinary person,” Habib said the assassination marked a new turn for the region as well as the Muslim-Israeli conflict. “Therefore, there are no chances for appeasement,” he said.  

 

Khaled Al Batsh, a prominent leader in the Islamic Jihad, considered this killing the responsibility of both the Israeli and US administrations.  

 

“What happened today in Gaza was a crime against humanity and the resistance. Killing a man after returning from prayer is an ugly crime. I hold President Bush, along with the Israeli government, completely responsible. Sharon had coordinated this operation with President Bush. This crime will not pass without proper reaction from our side,” said Batsh.  

 

“We demand of all the Arab leaders to give the assassination of Sheikh Yassin the importance it deserves and a joint reaction towards Israel be formulated. This is another example of the suffering the Palestinians have to go through as pressure to accept the [peace] terms of Sharon,” Batsh concluded.  

 

 

Al-Quds Brigades, the military wing of Islamic Jihad, said the Israelis would pay a dear price for the assassination. The group called on all of its members every where to stay on alert and hit all Israeli targets.  

 

Spontaneous assault in Tel Aviv 

Hours after the assassination, an axe-wielding Palestinian wounded three Israelis outside an army base near Tel Aviv on Monday.  

 

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, which followed vows of revenge by Hamas and Fatah's al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, for the killing of Yasin.  

 

"A man from the Palestinian territories got out of a car and attacked three people with an axe," a police officer told Israel Radio.  

 

A police statement said two men and a woman were injured seriously.  

 

Khan Yunis shooting 

A short time later, a 13-year-old Palestinian boy was killed by Israeli troops during a mass demonstration in the southern Gaza Strip town of Khan Yunis in support of the slain Yasin.  

 

Medics named the victim as Musab al-Khalban and said he had been fatally hit in the head when troops opened fire from the nearby Jewish settlement of Ganei Tal. They said four other people were moderately wounded during the demonstration.  

 

Arab protests 

In Cairo, hundreds of students at al-Azhar University called for revenge in a demonstration on campus.  

 

"The Jews have killed Yasin, where is the response of the Muslims?" the students chanted. "Sharon, coward, Yasin's blood is not worthless," they warned Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.  

 

Making reference to Jordan and Egypt, Mahdi Akif of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood said Arab governments should cease relations with Israel. "If Arab governments enjoy the least sense of responsibility, they should expel all Zionist representatives from their countries," he said.  

 

Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmad Qurei slammed Israel's policy of assassination, calling it a "cowardly act".  

 

Hatem Abdul Kader, member of Fatah’s Central Committee (the political wing of Fatah) and an active member in the Palestinian Legislative Council spoke to Al Bawaba about the incident, describing it as “a crime that reflects the criminal nature of the Israeli Prime Minister [Ariel Sharon]”.  

 

“Killing Yassin is not just an offense against Hamas, but rather for the entire Palestinian public. Yassin is considered a national symbol of resistance… killing him will open the door wide open for retaliation and escalation in the violence.” Abdul Kader concluded.  

 

Talab Al Sanei, member of the Israeli Knesset and Yassin’s lawyer during the nineties, spoke of the incident to Al Bawaba this morning, describing it as “something that will immortalize the man forever”.  

 

“I’ve always believed that Sharon is a terrorist and it is the bloody way in which he thinks that was behind the decision [to assassinate Yassin]. I am also convinced that the Ashdod operation was behind the decision to kill him. Another reason I believe that Israel took this decision was due to the anticipated unilateral Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, which may be considered a victory by the resistance in the absence of a proper peace agreement between both parties,” Sanei concluded.  

 

Azmi Beshara, another member of Israeli Knesset, also considers the assassination of Yassin as “an Israeli attempt to assassinate the will of the Palestinian struggle”.  

 

“This crime proves that Sharon and his government are not considering any diplomatic alternatives to the issue. This latest Israeli escalation on will only trigger more violence,” Beshara added.  

 

For his part, Ahmad Al Tibi - another member of Israeli Knesset - issued a statement this morning demanding an emergency session of the Israeli Knesset to discuss the Yassin assassination.  

 

Tibi, who is also head of the Arab Movement for Change, described the assassination as a ‘war crime’ committed by a ‘terrorist’ (referring to the Israeli PM) who wants to set fire to the entire Middle East on fire.  

 

The Islamic Movement inside Israel also denounced the act, accusing Sharon of “tampering with Zionists’ security”. “Sharon had opened a door he would not be able to shut down later,” said Kamal Khatib, the movement deputy leader.  

 

Funeral 

At noon, the body of Sheikh Ahmad Yasin was carried through the streets of Gaza City by Palestinian resistance fighters at the start of his funeral.  

 

Tens of thousands of mourners accompanied the cortege as it made its way through the streets of Gaza with his coffin draped in the green flag of the movement that he founded.  

 

The procession left Gaza's al-Shifa hospital, heading first towards Yasin's house in Gaza. A brief funeral service was held at a mosque in the center of the city. The 67-year-old was later buried in the city's "martyrs cemetery".  

 

© 2004 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)


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