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Sharon Ordered and Monitored Assassination of Shaikh Yassin, Hamas Spiritual Leader, who Said Three Hours Earlier: "We Seek Martyrdom"

By Nidal al-Mughrabi- aljazeerah



GAZA (Reuters) - Israel assassinated Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin outside a Gaza mosque Monday, striking its heaviest blow against the Palestinian resistance group and drawing enraged vows of revenge.

Israeli security sources said Prime Minister Ariel Sharon personally ordered and monitored the helicopter attack against the paralyzed cleric, whose wheelchair lay smashed in a pool of blood after three missiles exploded.

It was the highest-profile assassination of a Palestinian since the April 1988 killing in Tunis of Palestinian commando chief Khalil al-Wazir. At least seven other people died in the Gaza strike and two of Yassin's sons were among 15 wounded.

The attack on Yassin as he and his entourage left dawn prayers seemed to be aimed at weakening Hamas to prevent it from claiming victory should Sharon go ahead with a planned unilateral pullout from Gaza.

After the first missile hit, a witness told Reuters: "I looked to see where Sheikh Ahmed Yassin was. He was lying on the ground and his wheelchair was destroyed. People there darted left and right. Then another two missiles landed."

Another one of Yassin's sons, Mohammed, told Reuters he had remarked to his father about three hours before the attack about an Israeli reconnaissance plane spotted in the sky.

"He said, 'We seek martyrdom....to Him (God) we belong to Him and to Him we return."'

Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, speaking to reporters, called Yassin "the Palestinian (Osama) bin Laden" and pledged more Israeli attacks on Hamas's top echelon.

But a dissenting voice in the Israeli cabinet, Interior Minister Avraham Poraz, said Yassin -- Hamas's spiritual leader -- was not "a ticking bomb" and voiced concern that his death could lead to the loss of many more Israeli lives in suicide attacks.

Previous assassinations of Palestinian resistance leaders have triggered waves of suicide bombings that have turned Israeli buses, restaurants and cafes into charred wrecks and deepened violence that has stalled a U.S.-backed peace "road map."

Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians poured out their grief in a funeral procession for Yassin and the other dead.

While espousing "armed struggle," Yassin's movement also ran a broad welfare network for Palestinians and he was seen by many in the West Bank and Gaza as a heroic symbol of resistance to Israeli occupation.

"DOOR TO CHAOS"

Officials in the Palestinian Authority called Yassin a moderating force in Hamas, an Islamic movement he co-founded in 1987 with encouragement from Israel, which hoped the new group would undercut its long-time enemy, PLO chief Yasser Arafat.

"It is a clear message to the world that the Israelis are not ready to sit with the Palestinians for peace," Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Quorie told reporters after the killing, which he said "opened the door to chaos."

With eyes burning with tears and rage, mourners reached out to touch Yassin's Islamic flag-draped coffin in the biggest public turnout in Gaza since Arafat's triumphant entry in 1994 after interim peace deals with Israel.

"Sharon, start preparing your body bags because (Hamas's) Qassam Brigades will put Israeli houses in mourning and make a funeral in every Israeli street," the crowd chanted.

In the first sign of revenge within Israel, a Palestinian with an axe hurt three people outside an army base near Tel Aviv, Israeli police said. He was arrested.

In scenes reminiscent of the start of a Palestinian uprising that began in September 2000, protests erupted in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Witnesses said Israeli forces killed a gunman in the Gaza Strip and an 11-year-old during a demonstration in the area.

In the West Bank city of Nablus, witnesses said soldiers shot dead a university student-reporter during an anti-Israeli protest. The army said he was a gunman who fired at the troops.

The Israeli army sealed off the West Bank and Gaza Strip to stop any Palestinians entering Israel.

Mosques called an immediate general strike. Arafat, the Palestinian president, declared three days of mourning. He and his cabinet stood in a moment of silence at the start of an emergency meeting.

A senior State Department official urged all sides to remain calm. The United States brands Hamas a terrorist group.

Hamas said it believed Washington, where Sharon hopes to win support for go-it-alone steps Palestinians fear could turn into an Israeli land grab in the West Bank, had given the green light for Yassin's assassination.

In Brussels, the European Union condemned Israel's "extra-judicial killing" as illegal and likely to further inflame violence.

 


 

 

 




 

جميع الحقوق محفوظة لموقع الشيخ أحمد ياسين - القاهرة 2006