GAZA CITY ø Hamas leader Ahmed Yassin has been killed in an Israeli
military attack directed by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
"They tried to attack the dignity of our nation," Abdul Aziz Rentisi, Yassin's chief aide and apparent successor, said. "They are not
assassinating Sheik Ahmed Yassin only. They are trying to assassinate
everything. We are telling the enemies: this is an open war."
Israeli officials said the assassination of Yassin was overseen by
Sharon, who has been promoting a plan to
unilaterally withdraw from the Gaza Strip. They said Yassin's death was
decided by Israel's Cabinet more than six months ago as part of a plan to
eliminate Palestinian insurgency leaders. That decision was reaffirmed last
In 2003, Yassin, blamed for ordering major Hamas attacks, escaped
Israeli assassination. Israeli officials said the Jewish state was now
preparing for a Hamas suicide bombing campaign, Middle East Newsline reported. The military prevented
Palestinian laborers from leaving the West Bank and Gaza Strip and divided
the strip into three areas.
Yassin was killed in an Israeli missile strike as he left mosque in Gaza
City on early Monday. Eight others, including two of his sons, were killed
in the helicopter attack on Yassin's convoy.
Witnesses said three missiles were fired from Israeli Air Force AH-64A
Apache attack helicopters. A leading aide of Yassin, Ismail Haniya, survived
the Israeli attack.
"The operation this morning demonstrated that terrorism has no
immunity," Israeli Finance Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said. "Even a sheik
can be a terrorist."
An Israeli military statement said Yassin was killed in his vehicle. The
statement said Yassin was directly involved in operational planning as well
as cooperation with other insurgency groups.
"I have said for a while that Yassin was worthy of death," Israeli
Deputy Defense Minister Ze'ev Boim said. "As long as there is motivation for
terror, our operations will continue. Sometimes, we are successful;
sometimes, we are not."
Hamas operatives fired mortars and anti-tank missiles against Israeli
communities in the central Gaza Strip. The operatives, who also torched cars
and hurled stones toward Palestinian Authority offices, vowed to launch
revenge attacks against Israel, including an attempt to kill Sharon.
Hours after the assassination of Yassin, a Palestinian insurgent stabbed
three people outside of a military installation in the Tel Aviv suburb of
Ramat Gan. The insurgent was immediately captured.
Palestinian sources said Hamas leaders in Syria would seek to fill the
vacuum left by the death of Yassin, who founded Hamas in 1987. The sources
said Rentisi, who escaped an assassination attempt in 2002, would seek to
"Ahmed Yassin was a restraining element in Hamas," Palestinian Authority
deputy minister Sufian Abu Zeidah said. "You will have a more extremist
organization than before."
Yassin was imprisoned by Israel in 1989 in wake of the Hamas abduction
of two Israeli soldiers. He was released in 1997 as part of an exchange in
which Jordan released Mossad agents captured in Amman when they tried to
assassinate Hamas politburo chief Khaled Masha'al. Until 2000, Israeli
officials said, Yassin refrained from direct involvement in Hamas suicide
"I am concerned that we have opened a chapter that could result in many
people being killed," Interior Minister Avraham Poraz, who voted against a
decision to kill Yassin, said.