Hamas Leader Killed in Gaza
It’s nice to wake up to good news now and again:
Israeli aircraft attacked and killed Sheik Ahmed Yassin, the spiritual leader and founder of Hamas and Israel’s top target, as he was pushed in a wheelchair from morning prayers at a Gaza City mosque early Monday, according to announcements blared over mosques across the city.
Thousands of Palestinians poured into the streets of Gaza and the sounds of gunfire and hand grenade explosions echoed across the city as news of his death surfaced just after 5:30 a.m. dawn prayers.
Israeli AH-64 Apache helicopters fired three missiles at Yassin just outside the mosque, killing the partially blind and paralyzed Hamas leader, along with seven other people, including three bodyguards. At least 15 other people were wounded, including two of his sons, according to hospital officials.
“His body is in pieces,” hospital director Ibrahim Habbash said, describing Yassin’s wounds. “His head can’t be seen because the rocket was shot at him directly.”
Thousands of angry, shouting Palestinians, some firing Kalashnikov rifles into the air, surrounded the morgue at Shifa Hospital in Gaza City where Yassin’s body was brought. Leaders shouted revenge against Israel as many men in the crowd sobbed.
“They assassinated a symbol, not a person,” said Jumaa Saqqa, a spokesman for Shifa Hospital where hundreds of boys and men were climbing over the hospital fences and onto nearby rooftops to watch the growing crowd that was incited even more by the hoarse, vengeful calls of Hamas leaders amplified by a massive stack of loudspeakers tied atop a brown van.
Hamas, in announcing Yassin’s death, said Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon “has opened the gates of hell and nothing will stop us from cutting off his head,” the Associated Press reported.
The al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, an armed group linked to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat’s Fatah movement, said on Monday it was declaring war on Israelis in response to the assassination of Yassin.
“War, war, war on the sons of Zion. An eye for an eye. There will be a response within hours, God willing,” the group said in a statement.
Ah, yes. As opposed to the peace and civility of the past fifty-plus years.
Arab leaders condemned today’s killing of the Hamas leader Sheik Ahmed Yassin and vowed revenge on Israelis, while the United States called for restraint from both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
In Washington, State Department spokesman Lou Fintor said: “The United States urges all sides to remain calm and exercise restraint.”
But rage over the death of Sheik Ahmed Yassin, killed by an Israeli helicopter gunship at daybreak as he left a mosque near his Gaza Strip home, reverberated across the Middle East today.
The attack also cast doubt on recent Arab political moves aimed at reinvigorating the Mideast peace process.
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat declared three days of mourning and said the Israelis had “crossed all red lines.” His prime minister, Ahmed Qureia, called the killing of Yassin “one of the biggest crimes that the Israeli government has committed.”
Mohammed Mahdi Akef, the leader of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, the oldest and most influential Islamic movement in the Middle East, issued a warning to all Americans and Israelis.
“There can be no life for the Americans and Zionists in the region,” Akef told the Arab satellite television al-Jazeera. “We will not rest until they (Israelis) are expelled from the region.”
Arab political analysts called the killing an affront to Egypt’s efforts to bring about a cease-fire between Palestinian militant groups and Israel, and warned that the move will only fuel violence.
“This is an embarrassment to Egypt,” said Dia’a Rashwan, an expert on radical Islam with Egypt’s Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies. “Egypt was directly involved in bringing Hamas and (Islamic) Jihad closer to the Palestinian authority and bringing about a cease-fire. Targeting Yassin is a direct blow to these efforts.”
Rather than create longterm stability, Rashwan said such a move would only create more extremist wings within Hamas: “When an organization losses its head, it splits, becomes less centralized and this can only lead to more extremism and fanaticism.”
I’m getting tired of these calls for “restraint,” frankly. We’re supposed to be at war with terrorists. Taking out their leaders would seem the most restrained way to fight such as war.
Sheik Yassin, a symbol to Palestinians of resistance to Israel and to Israelis of Palestinian terrorism, was by far the most significant Palestinian militant killed by Israel in more than three years of conflict.
Black smoke curled over Gaza City as Palestinians began burning tires in the streets and demonstrators chanted for revenge. Mosque loudspeakers blared a message across Gaza of mourning for Sheik Yassin in the name of Hamas and another militant group, Al Aksa Martyrs Brigades.
The Israeli military confirmed the killing, saying in a statement that the sheik was “responsible for numerous murderous terror attacks, resulting in the deaths of many civilians, both Israeli and foreign.”
Meryl Yourish was up late or early.