Yassin murder provokes vows of revenge from Hamas
The murder of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin at dawn today as he left morning prayers at a mosque in Gaza City in a missile attack by an Israeli military helicopter provoked Hamas, the group of which he was the spiritual leader, to declare that Ariel Sharon "has opened the gates of Hell".
Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, 67, was being taken from the Mosque to a vehicle in his wheelchair when the three missiles struck, murdering 9 people, including one son and injuring 15 others, including a second son.
The attack came after an Israeli cabinet meeting at the weekend at which the Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, gave the go-ahead for the strike in retaliation for the terrorist attack in Ashdod on 14th March in which 10 Israelis were killed.
The reaction from the Islamic world was understandably one of outrage. Palestinian Prime Minister called the attack a "dangerous, cowardly act", while Teheran "strongly condemned" the strike, calling the move "criminal" and an example of "the Zionist regime's barbarism", according to a declaration by IRNA. Iranian foreign ministry spokesperson Hamid-Reza Asefi called the attack "state terrorism".
The Israeli Defence Force admitted responsibility, claiming it was in retaliation for "terrorist attacks" because Yassin was "personally responsible for dozens of terrorist attacks and the deaths of Israelis, foreigners and security personnel".
Binyamin Netanyahu, Israeli Foreign Minister, stated that "Yassin was warned when he was released from Israeli custody but did not listen. He became a legitimate target".
Ahmad Ismail Yassin was born in al-Jora, Majdal region, in southern Gaza in 1938, becoming a refugee with his family after the war against Israel in 1948. After an accident during a sports match in his childhood, which left him with no movement in his legs and hands, he became a teacher of Arabic language and Islamic Studies, working at the same time as a preacher in Mosques in Gaza, becoming Head of the Islamic Compound.
He became involved with a Palestinian branch of the Islamic brotherhood but only in 1983 did he become a famous figure, when he was arrested by the Israeli security forces on charges of possession of weapons, involvement in a secret organization and incitement against the security of the state of Israel. Sentenced to 13 years' imprisonment, he was released in an exchange deal in 1985.
In 1987, he formed Hamas (Islamic Resistance Movement) in Gaza and was arrested again in 1989, being sentenced to life imprisonment in 1991. He lost the sight in his right eye as a result of the torture he received at the hands of his Israeli investigators and in 1997, was released under another exchange deal.
Retaliation for this attack is not a question of if, but when. Hamas has issued a statement which reads "All the Moslems of the world will be honoured to join in on the retaliation for this crime".
Sheikh Ahmed Yassin embodied the most intransigent form of Palestinian resistance. He believed that Palestine was an Islamic land "consecrated for future Moslem generations until the Day of Judgment" and that "The so-called peace path is not peace and it is not a substitute for jihad and resistance".
It was for this discourse that he became a famous preacher and it was for this discourse that he paid the ultimate price.