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Tuesday, Mar. 23, 2004 at 8:25 AM
Palestinians gather around pieces of the wheelchair and blood stains at the scene where an Israeli air strike killed Hamas spiritual leader Sheik Ahmed Yassin, near his house in Gaza City, Monday, March 22, 2004. Israeli helicopters fired missiles at Hamas leader Sheik Ahmed Yassin as he left a mosque near his house at daybreak. (AP Photo/Kevin Frayer). Tens of thousands of Palestinians chant anti occupation slogans as they march through the streets to the house of Sheik Yassin after his killing. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)
yassin.jpg, image/jpeg, 677x409
Israel Assassinates Hamas' Sheikh Ahmed Yassin
By Nidal al-Mughrabi
GAZA (Reuters) - Israeli helicopter gunships killed Hamas' spiritual leader
Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and at least three other people in a missile strike as
they left a mosque before dawn on Monday in Gaza, witnesses said.
A Reuters reporter who rushed to the scene after hearing three loud
explosions found the blown-up remains of Yassin's blood-soaked wheel-chair.
One witness who lives near the mosque told Reuters what happened moments
after the first explosion.
"I looked to see where Sheikh Ahmed Yassin 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."
Yassin's body was evacuated to Gaza City's Shifa hospital. The bodies of
three other people, at least two of them Yassin's bodyguards, were also at
At least 10 people were wounded in the attack, including Yassin's two sons
who were moderately hurt.
"The sheikh is dead. The sheikh is dead," sobbed gunmen and Hamas militants
who gathered at the scene.
Israel has said it would step up operations to track and kill Islamic
militants after a string of suicide bombings, including one at a strategic
port last week in which 10 people were killed. Tens of thousands of
Palestinians, many in tears, poured into Gaza City streets. Gunmen fired
into the air and militants threw dozens of pipe-bombs to express their
"Sheikh Ahmed Yassin rest in peace. They will never enjoy rest. We will send
death to every house, every city, every street in Israel," militants shouted
Palestinian Authority officials condemned the attack.
"This is a crazy and very dangerous act. It opens the door wide to chaos.
Yassin is known for his moderation and he was controlling Hamas and
therefore this is a dangerous, cowardly act," said Prime Minister Ahmed
Yassin, who was about 67-years-old, has been confined to a wheelchair since
a childhood accident that paralyzed him. He is also partially blind. Yassin
was sentenced by Israel in 1989 to a life term for founding Hamas and
inciting Palestinians to attack Israelis.
But Israel released him in 1997 as a goodwill gesture to Jordan's King
Hussein after a failed Israeli attempt to assassinate Hamas leader Khaled
Mashal in Jordan.
"All of Palestine will turn into a volcano that will burn up the enemies,"
Sheikh Ismael Haniyah, a Hamas leader, told reporters outside the morgue
after viewing Yassin's body. "Our feelings...are full of anger and desire
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