The wheelchair-bound 67-year-old was the target of a missile attack by Israeli Apache helicopters as he left a mosque in Gaza City after morning prayers. He and at least seven other individuals were killed. Two of his sons were among the 17 people injured.
As government officials in Washington and London expressed their sympathy for Tel Aviv and its fight against terrorism, the Israeli military closed off West Bank cities and the checkpoints that divide the Gaza Strip into three sections. Israeli forces killed at least four more Palestinians in further actions.
Later, armored forces rolled into northern Gaza. Israeli military officers said that they had also launched air raids against the Palestinian organization Hezbollah in southern Lebanon, and exchanged artillery fire with Hezbollah units.
Reporters noted that the mood of Yassins funeral march in Gaza City, joined by hundreds of thousands of people in a city of no more than half a million, was not mournful but combative. Schools and shops in Gaza shut down in solidarity. In the West Bank city of Ramallah mosque loudspeakers called for a general strike, according to a Reuters dispatch.
Within hours of the assassination large protests also erupted in Lebanon, Yemen, and Egypt. Some 7,000 students protested at Cairos Al-Azhar University. Another 5,000 rallied in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum. In Lebanon thousands of Palestinians demonstrated near the southern city of Sidon and the northern city of Tripoli.
In Yemen 3,000 students demonstrated at the Sana University. They accused Washington of giving Tel Aviv the green light to assassinate Yassin, reported the Washington Post. Palestinian immigrants have taken the lead in organizing protests in New York and other cities outside the Mideast.
Yassin, who grew up in the refugee camps of Gaza, founded Hamas in 1987. In addition to providing some social services in the occupied territories, the organization has become a prominent opponent of Tel Avivs occupation and a rival to the Palestine Liberation Organization. Hamas leaders have organized a number of military attacks on targets inside Israel and the occupied territories, including suicide bombings.
This was the second known assassination attempt on the Hamas founder. Authorities in Tel Aviv tried and failed to kill him in September 2003, when warplanes dropped a 550-lb bomb on a building in which he was meeting with other Hamas leaders.
Citing the Israeli daily Haaretz, the Guardian reported that the Israeli security cabinet took the decision to target [Yassin] once more following a double suicide bombing earlier this month in which 10 people were killed.
Mr. Sharon oversaw the operation, continued the London-based paper, receiving constant updates from military officials at his Negev ranch. Like other officials of the Israeli regime, Sharon crowed about the successful hit. Yassin, he said, was the first and foremost leader of the Palestinian terrorist murderers.
Anyone who is involved in terrorism in Gaza or the West Bank…knows after yesterdays assassination that no one is immune, said Police Minister Tzahi Hanegbi.
Such targeted killings will continue, said Shaul Mofaz, the defense minister. Strikes against Hamas and other terror groups, he said, will bring more security to Israeli citizens.
Policy of assassination
According to a March 22 AP report, Palestinian medical officials say that Israeli forces have killed more than 150 militants in targeted raids since fighting broke out in September 2000.
The news organization reported the next day that army chief Lt. Gen. Moshe Yaalon suggested that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and the chief of the Lebanese guerrilla group Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, would eventually be assassinated. I think that their responses yesterday show that they understand that it is nearing them, he saida reference to the statement by Palestinian Authority (PA) cabinet minister Saab Erekat that Palestinian officials were taking the threats of further such killings very seriously.
Arafat called the killing a barbaric crime. Palestinian prime minister Ahmed Qurie called it one of the biggest crimes that the Israeli government has committed.
Last September the Israeli cabinet announced it had decided to act to remove Arafat. Israeli vice prime minister Ehud Olmert told Israel Radio that killing the PA president or forcing him into exile were among options being considered.
The confident tone of Israeli government officials was reinforced by the reaction in Washington and London to the assassination.
While a U.S. State Department spokesman said that the administration of President George Bush was deeply troubled by the killing and another official said that it was not helpful, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice urged people to remember that Hamas is a terrorist organization and that Sheik Yassin has himself, personally, we believe, been involved in terrorist planning.
Britains foreign minister, Jack Straw, said, It is very difficult for all countries fighting terrorism to take a measured response in the face of the kind of outrageous terrorism that Israel has suffered. But a measure of restraint is required and I dont believe Israel will benefit from the assassination.
The consolidation of the U.S. and British-led occupation of Iraq has reinforced Tel Avivs military offensive against the Palestinians. Sharon presents the assaults on the Palestinians as part of the global war on terror championed by the U.S. rulers.
In recent statements, Sharon has said he is considering a unilateral separation from the Palestinians. The construction of a massive wall around and into the West Bank is one aspect of this policy of isolation and economic strangulation.
Sharons ultimatums, which are depicted in the media as controversial within his government, include a so-called withdrawal from Gaza and, later, the West Bank. The Wall Street Journal reported March 23 that Mr Sharon and other government leaders have made it clear, however, that Palestinians could wind up controlling as little as 40 percent of the land area most past negotiations have contemplated.
Resisting Israeli regimes military boot
Palestinians speak to intl youth delegation about Tel Avivs assaults, massive wall
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