Palestinians Declare a New Intifada Has Begun
"A coward dies a thousand times. A brave man dies only once."
Sheikh Ahmed Yassin
Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) extra-judicially executed the founder and spiritual leader of the Islamic Resistance Movement Hamas Sheikh Ahmad Yasin while leaving a mosque after he performed his predawn prayers in Gaza City early Monday.
Pandora?s box has been opened. We are counting down” until the next Palestinian attack “and the question is how many Israelis will be killed,” said Yossi Beilin the former Israeli justice minister and co-author of the unofficial Geneva Initiative.
Hamas vindicated Beilin?s warning. The Hamas leadership said, “[Israeli Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon has opened the gates of hell. And nothing will stop us from cutting off his head”.
Eight other Palestinians were killed and at least 15 others, including Yasin?s two sons, were wounded when IOF Apache helicopter gunships targeted Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmad Yasin with three missiles predawn Monday.
Yassin was killed while he was leaving a mosque in his wheel chair in the Sabra quarter of the Gaza city, Hamas said. He was paraplegic. Three rockets fired by an Israeli helicopter hit nearby, killing Yassin, two of his assistants and six passers-by.
Palestinian President Yaser Arafat ordered in a statement Monday morning an official three-day mourning in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and in the Diaspora.
IOF sealed off the entire Occupied Palestinian Territory until further notice early Monday. The Israeli closure was declared both internally and externally.
The Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip went on general strike in public mourning immediately after the assassination of Sheikh Yasin.
Israel Radio said Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon had personally supervised the assassination of Yasin.
Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmad Qurei described the assassination of Sheikh Ahmad Yasin by IOF as a “crazy, dangerous and cowardly act.”
Qurei urged the Quartet of US, UN, EU and Russia to “deter” Israeli ongoing shedding of Palestinian blood after the assassination of Sheikh Yasin, which he described as a “crime” aimed at sustaining the cycle of violence.
Palestinian Minister for negotiations Sa?eb Erekat demanded world protection for the Palestinian people and immediate international involvement to stop the “Israeli bloodbath” against Palestinians after the assassination of Sheikh Yasin.
The Ezzedin al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, vowed to avenge the assassination with immediate reprisals, it said in statement received by AFP.
“We, the Ezzedin al-Qassam leaders, have decided to take immediate reprisals, like an earthquake that will hit everywhere to destroy the Zionist presence,” said the statement, adding that the response would be “unexpected.”
Hamas representative in Lebanon Osama Hamdan said “from now on there would be no limits” to resistance attacks against the Israeli occupiers.
The Israeli security cabinet last week decided to increase onslaughts against Hamas and its leadership.
In September 2003, IOF dropped a 550-pound bomb on a building where Yasin was meeting with top Hamas leaders. Everyone escaped relatively unscathed; Yassin received a slight wound on his hand.
A childhood sporting accident left Yasin almost completely paralyzed and in recent years he went nearly blind, with poor hearing. But for all his physical frailty, he had compelling charisma.
Yassin was born in 1937 in what is now the Israeli city of Ashqelon, and his family, like those of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, was uprooted in 1948 with the founding of Israel. He grew up in Palestinian refugee camps in the Gaza Strip.
He made a name for himself as a teacher and spiritual leader. The first Palestinian uprising, which erupted in December 1987, put Yasin on the political map. Yasin and nearly 400 other group members were jailed in a mass raid in late 1989 before all except him were deported to Lebanon.
He was convicted by an IOF military court of organizing attacks on civilians and ordering the kidnappings of two Israeli soldiers and was sentenced to life in prison.
In jail, Yassin suffered from a variety of ailments, including chronic bronchitis and eye and ear maladies.
But fate ? in the form of one of Israel?s worst espionage blunders ? intervened to free him in 1997. After a botched assassination attempt in Jordan against Hamas leader Khalid Mish?al, Israel was forced to release dozens of Palestinian prisoners, including Yassin, following interference by the late king Hussein.
Yasin made his second homecoming to Gaza in June 1998. More than 10,000 cheering followers packed a rundown Gaza City soccer stadium to welcome him back.
Israel has assassinated more than 150 Palestinian anti-occupation activists in what Israeli officials dub “targeted killings of terrorists” since the current Intifada broke out in September 2000, according to Palestinian medical officials.
Article courtesy of Palestine Media Center
Palestinians Declare a New Intifada Has Begun