A mass murderer meets his end
Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, founder of the Islamic terror group Hamas, has met his end. This had to be done, as Hamas’ jihad ideology is the chief cause of ongoing warfare in Israel and of the breakdown of peace negotiations. Yassin was also the inspiration for innumerable suicide bombers. In death, however, at least in the short run, he may prove even more lethal than he was when alive.
Israel killed Hamas founder Ahmed Yassin in a helicopter missile strike outside a Gaza City mosque Monday, prompting threats of unprecedented revenge by Palestinian militants against Israel and the United States.
Yassin was the most prominent Palestinian leader killed by Israel in more than three years of fighting, and his assassination was seen as a major escalation.
In a spontaneous outpouring of rage and grief, tens of thousands of Palestinians took to the streets in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. A cloud of black smoke hung over Gaza City, as angry mourners burned tires in protest.
“Words cannot describe the emotion of anger and hate inside our hearts,” said Hamas official Ismail Haniyeh, a close associate of Yassin.
Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, in turn, pledged that “the battle against Hamas will continue,” suggesting there will be more airstrikes and raids.
In Washington, State Department spokesman Lou Fintor said U.S. officials were in touch with Israeli and Palestinian authorities. “The United States urges all sides to remain calm and exercise restraint,” he said.
At daybreak Monday, Israeli helicopters fired three missile as Yassin, his bodyguards and dozens of others left a mosque in Gaza City. Yassin, a quadriplegic who uses a wheelchair, and seven others were killed, including several bodyguards. Seventeen people were wounded.
Three more Palestinians were killed in Gaza later Monday, one while handling explosives and two by Israeli army fire, during a protest against the Yassin killing, Palestinian hospital officials said.
In a West Bank refugee camp, a Palestinian radio journalist covering clashes between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian stone throwers was killed by army fire shortly, residents said.
Israel held Yassin responsible for the deaths of hundreds of people. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, a former army general, was updated throughout the operation.
“The Israeli air force this morning killed the mastermind of all evil, Ahmed Yassin, who was a preacher of death,” said army spokeswoman Brig. Gen Ruth Yaron.
The Israeli defense minister said Yassin was the “Palestinian bin Laden.”
The Yassin assassination was seen as an enormous gamble by Sharon, who is trying to score a decisive victory against Hamas ahead of a possible Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, but risks triggering a dramatic escalation in bloodshed that could turn the public’s mood in Israel against him.
Gideon Meir, an Israeli Foreign Ministry official, said Yassin was directly responsible for the scores of suicide attacks Hamas unleashed since 2000. “He is the one who is sending children and women to explode themselves,” Meir said.
The Palestinian Authority said in a statement that “Israel has exceeded all red lines with this cheap and dirty crime,” and declared a three-day mourning period.
Does anyone out there still believe that Hamas represents the extremists and the PA is full of moderates? If so, read on:
Flags at Yasser Arafat’s headquarters in the West Bank town of Ramallah were lowered to half-staff, and the Palestinian Cabinet was to hold an emergency session later Monday.
Yassin was Arafat’s biggest political rival, but Arafat has always been careful not to confront the Hamas leader openly.
Cabinet ministers stood as Arafat recited a Muslim prayer for the dead. The Palestinian leader, referring to Yassin, then added: “May you join the martyrs and the prophets. To heaven, you martyr.”