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Ahmed Yassin

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Ahmed Yassin
Photograph of Ahmed Yassin taken on 19 March 2004
Born 1937[1]
Al-Jura, District of Gaza
Died 22 March 2004
Gaza City, Gaza Strip

Sheikh Ahmed Ismail Hassan Yassin (1937 – 22 March 2004[1]) (Arabic: الشيخ أحمد إسماعيل ياسين‎) was a founder of Hamas, an Islamist Palestinian paramilitary organization and political party. Yassin also served as the spiritual leader of the organization. Hamas gained popularity in Palestinian society by establishing hospitals, education systems, libraries and other services,[2] but it has also claimed responsibility for a number of suicide attacks targeting Israeli civilians, leading to its being characterized by a number of western states as a terrorist organization.[3][4]

Yassin, a quadriplegic who was nearly blind, had used a wheelchair since a sporting accident at the age of 12.[5] He was assassinated by an Israeli pilot of an helicopter gunship in 2004.[6] His killing, in an attack that claimed the lives of nine bystanders, precipitated much criticism of Israel, and many observers suggested that the act would negatively impact the peace process.[6] 200,000 Palestinians attended his funeral procession.[7]

Early life

Ahmed Yassin was born in al-Jura, a small village near the city of Ashkelon, during the British Mandate of Palestine. His date of birth is not known for certain: according to his Palestinian passport, he was born on 1 January 1929, but he claimed to have actually been born in 1938. His father, Abdullah Yassin, died when he was three years old. Afterward, he became known in his neighborhood as Ahmad Sa'ada after his mother Sa'ada al-Habeel. This was to differentiate him from the children of his father's other three wives. Together, Yassin had four brothers and two sisters. He and his entire family fled to Gaza, settling in al-Shati Camp after his village was captured by the Israel Defence Forces during the 1948 Arab–Israeli War.[8][6]

Yassin came to Gaza as a refugee. When he was 12, he was injured while wrestling his friend Abdullah al-Khatib. His neck was kept in plaster for 45 days and when it was removed, it became clear that Yassin would live the rest of his life as a quadriplegic. He damaged his spinal cord leaving him in severe paralysis to much of his body, leaving him incapable of walking or even holding objects. Fearing a rift between his family and al-Khatib's, Yassin initially told his family that he sustained his injuries while playing leapfrog during a sports lesson with his school friends on the beach.[9]

Although Yassin applied and attended al-Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt, he was unable to pursue his studies there due to his deteriorating health. He was forced to be educated at home where he read widely, particularly on philosophical matters and on religion, politics, sociology, and economics. His followers believe that his worldly knowledge made him "one of the best speakers in the Gaza Strip." During this time, he began delivering weekly sermons after Friday prayers, drawing large crowds of people.[9]

After years of unemployment, he got a post as an Arabic language teacher at an elementary school in Rimal, Gaza. Headmaster Mohammad al-Shawa initially had reservations about Yassin, concerning the reception he would receive from the pupils due to his disability. However, according to al-Shawa, Yassin handled them well and his popularity grew, especially among the more scholarly children. His teaching methods reportedly provoked mixed reactions among parents because he encouaraged his students to attend the mosque an additional two times a week.[9] Having a regular job gave Yassin financial stability, and he married one of his relatives, Halima Yassin, in 1960 at the age of 22.[10]

Involvement in the Israel-Palestinian conflict

Yassin subsequently became involved with a Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. In 1984 he and others were jailed for secretly stockpiling weapons, but in 1985 he was released as part of the Jibril Agreement.[11] In 1987, during the First Intifada, Yassin co-founded Hamas with Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi, originally calling it the Palestinian Wing of the Muslim Brotherhood, and becoming its spiritual leader.[3]

Yassin opposed the peace process between the Palestinians and the Israelis. He supported armed resistance against Israel, and was very outspoken in his views. He asserted that Palestine is an Islamic land "consecrated for future Muslim generations until Judgment Day" and that no Arab leader had the right to give up any part of this territory.[3] Yassin's rhetoric did not distinguish between Israelis and Jews, at one point stating that "Reconciliation with the Jews is a crime."[12] Yassin's inflammatory rhetoric was often scrutinized in the news media.[13] On one occasion, he opined that Israel "must disappear from the map".[13] Yassin's declaration that "We chose this road, and will end with martyrdom or victory" later became an oft repeated mantra among Palestinians.[14]

In 1989, Yassin was arrested by the Israelis and sentenced to life imprisonment. In 1997 Yassin was released from Israeli prison as part of an arrangement with Jordan following the failed assassination attempt of Khaled Mashal, which had been conducted by the Israeli Mossad in Jordan. Yassin was released by Israel in exchange for two Mossad agents who had been arrested by Jordanian authorities,[3] on the condition that he refrain from continuing to call for suicide bombings against Israel.[15]

Following his release, Yassin resumed his leadership of Hamas. He immediately resumed his calls for attacks on Israel, using tactics including suicide bombings, thus violating the condition of his release.[15] He also sought to maintain relations with the Palestinian Authority, believing that a clash between the two groups would be harmful to the interests of the Palestinian people.[3] Yassin, however, was repeatedly placed under house arrest by the Authority. Each time he was eventually released, often after extended demonstrations by his supporters.

Yassin criticized the outcome of the 2003 Aqaba summit. His group initially declared a temporary truce with Israel. However, in July 2003, the truce unravelled after a Palestinian suicide bombing of a Jerusalem bus left 21 people dead. Israeli forces killed two Hamas members in retaliation. [3]

On 6 September 2003, an Israeli Air Force (IAF) F-16 fired several missiles on a building in Gaza City, the Gaza Strip. Yassin was in the building at the time but survived.[6] Israeli officials later confirmed that Yassin was the target of the attack. His injuries were treated at Shifa Hospital in Gaza City. Yassin responded to the media that "Days will prove that the assassination policy will not finish the Hamas. Hamas leaders wish to be martyrs and are not scared of death. Jihad will continue and the resistance will continue until we have victory, or we will be martyrs."[16]

Yassin further promised that Hamas would teach Israel an "unforgettable lesson" as a result of the assassination attempt.[17] Yassin made no attempt to guard himself from further attempts on his life or hide his location. Journalists sometimes visited his Gaza address and Yassin maintained a routine daily pattern of activity, including being wheeled every morning to a nearby mosque.

Reem Raiyshi's suicide bombing at the Erez crossing on 14 January 2004, which killed four civilians, was believed by the Israeli military to have been directly ordered by Yassin.[18] Yassin suggested that the suicide bomber was fulfilling her "obligation" to make jihad,[19] and Israel's Deputy Defence Minister responded by publicly declaring that Yassin was "marked for death".[18] Yassin denied having any involvement in the attack's planning.[18]

Alleged involvement in terrorist attacks

Yassin was a founder and prominent leader of Hamas, which is regarded as a terrorist organization by a number of national governments.[4] Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon characterized Yassin as "the "mastermind of Palestinian terror" and a "mass murderer".[7] The Israeli government repeatedly asserted that Yassin was responsible for a number of terrorist attacks, which targeted and killed a number of civilians.[20] They accused him of being behind all the attacks perpetrated by Hamas against Israel. Israel said the targeted killing was in response to dozens of suicide attacks by Hamas against Israeli civilians.[21] According to an Israeli government website:

Yassin was the dominant authority of the Hamas leadership, which was directly involved in planning, orchestrating and launching terror attacks carried out by the organization. In this capacity, Yassin personally gave his approval for the launching of Qassam rockets against Israeli cities, as well as for the numerous Hamas terrorist bombings and suicide operations. In his public appearances and interviews, Yassin called repeatedly for a continuation of the 'armed struggle' against Israel, and for an intensification of the terrorist campaign against its citizens. The successful operation against Yassin constitutes a significant blow to a central pillar of the Hamas terrorist organization, and a major setback to its terrorist infrastructure.[22]

In his statement Yassin has declared that Hamas did target Israeli civilians, only in direct retaliation for the death of Palestinian civilians. In his thinking this was a necessary tactic to “show the Israelis they could not get away without a price for killing our people“ .[23]


Ahmed Yassin was killed in an Israeli attack on 22 March 2004. While he was being wheeled out of an early morning prayer session, an Israeli helicopter gunship fired Hellfire missiles at Yassin and both of his bodyguards. They were killed instantly, along with nine bystanders.[6][24] Another 12 people were injured in the operation, including two of Yassin's sons.

Reaction to assassination

Kofi Annan, UN Secretary General, condemned the killing.[25] The UN Commission on Human Rights passed a resolution condemning the killing[26] supported by votes from 31 countries including the People's Republic of China, India, Indonesia, Russia, and South Africa with 2 votes against and 18 abstentions. The Arab League council also expressed condemnation, [27] as did the African Union.[28]

A draft resolution condemning the extrajudicial execution of Yassin and six other Palestinians, as well as all terrorist attacks against civilians[29] was brought before the United Nations Security Council and vetoed by the United States, with United Kingdom, Germany, and Romania abstaining.[30] The United States explained that the draft resolution should have condemned Hamas explicitly following its sponsored suicide bombings in Ashdod the week before.[31]


The Palestinian Authority declared three days of mourning and closed Palestinian schools. Hamas official Ismail Haniyeh suggested, "This is the moment Sheikh Yassin dreamed about". The Hamas leadership said Ariel Sharon had "opened the gates of hell." Hamas called for retaliation against Israel. About 200,000 people took to the streets of the Gaza Strip for Yassin's funeral as Israeli forces declared a national alert.[7]

Abdel Aziz Rantisi was announced as the new head of Hamas. At a memorial service for Sheik Yassin, he declared that "The Israelis will not know security... We will fight them until the liberation of Palestine, the whole of Palestine."[32] Publicly addressing the "military wing" of Hamas, Rantisi suggested, "The door is open for you to strike all places, all the time and using all means."[32] Rantisi was himself assassinated by Israel on 17 April 2004.


Shaul Mofaz, the Israeli Defense Minister, branded Yassin "the Palestinian Bin Laden" and said, "If we have to balance how many more terrorists Yassin would have sent, how many terror attacks he would have approved, if we weigh this on the scales, we acted rightly".[7]

Avraham Poraz, Israel's Interior Minister and member of the centrist Shinui Party, said he believed the assassination of Yassin "was a bad idea because I am afraid of a revenge coming from the Palestinian side, from the Hamas side."[33] Shimon Peres, then leader of the Labour opposition, was critical of the assassination, suggesting that it "could lead to an escalation of terror".[33]

An informal survey by the BBC suggested support for the attack from Israelis.[33]

Arab world

King Abdullah II of Jordan described the assassination as a "crime";[6] Lebanon's president Emile Lahud vehemently denounced the Israeli act as "...a crime [which] will not succeed in liquidating the Palestinian cause";[6] Emir of Kuwait Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah said: "Violence will increase now because violence always breeds violence"[6]; the head of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Mohammed Akef, described Yassin as a "martyr" and his assassination a "cowardly operation."[6]


Jack Straw, then British Foreign Secretary, said: "All of us understand Israel's need to protect itself - and it is fully entitled to do that - against the terrorism which affects it, within international law. But it is not entitled to go in for this kind of unlawful killing and we condemn it. It is unacceptable, it is unjustified and it is very unlikely to achieve its objectives."[34]

In response to a question about the killing, U.S. President George W. Bush responded,

As far as the Middle East, it's a troubled region, and the attacks were troubling. There needs to be a focused, concerted effort by all parties to fight terror. Any country has a right to defend itself from terror. Israel has the right to defend herself from terror. And as she does so, I hope she keeps consequences in mind as to how to make sure we stay on the path to peace.[35]

United States Representative to the United Nations John Negroponte stated that the USA was "deeply troubled by this action by the Government of Israel", while asserting that the U.S. would not support any U.N. Security Council statement condemning Israel's assassination of Yassin that did not include a condemnation of "Hamas terrorist attacks".[36] According to his statement to the UN Security Council,

The killing of Sheikh Yassin has escalated tensions in Gaza and the greater Middle East, and sets back our effort to resume progress towards peace.

However, events must be considered in their context and as we consider the killing of Sheikh Yassin, we must keep in mind the facts. Sheikh Ahmed Yassin was the leader of a terrorist organization, one which has proudly taken credit for indiscriminate attacks against civilians, including most recently an attack last week in the Port of Ashdod, which left 10 Israelis dead. He preached hatred, and glorified suicide bombings of buses, restaurants, and cafes. Yassin was opposed to the existence of the State of Israel, and actively sought to undermine a two-state solution in the Middle East.

Notes and references

  1. 1.0 1.1 "Sheikh Ahmad Yassin". Jewish Virtual Library. 2004. Retrieved 2008-04-06. "Ahmed Yassin's Palestinian passport listed his date of birth as 1 January 1929, but Palestinian sources listed his birth year as 1937 (other Western media reported it as 1938)." 
  2. "Palestinian election raises varying opinions within U". The Minnesota Daily. January 31, 2006
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 "Sheikh Yassin: Spiritual figurehead". BBC Online. 22 March 2004. Retrieved 2007-08-07. 
  4. 4.0 4.1
  5. "". Retrieved 2007-06-18. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 6.6 6.7 6.8 "The life and death of Shaikh Yasin". Al Jazeera. 27 March 2004. Retrieved 2007-08-07. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 Prusher, Ilene R. Killing of Yassin a Turning Point. The Christian Science Monitor. 23 March 2004.
  8. Chehab, 2007, p.15.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Chehab, 2007, p.16.
  10. Chehab, 2007, p.17.
  11. "Hamas and Israel" by Sherifa Zuhur
  12. Template:Cite interview as quoted in Passner, Deborah (28 October 2003). "Hamas Takes "Revenge"?". Israel National News. Retrieved 2007-09-30. 
  13. 13.0 13.1 Poole, Elizabeth and Richardson, John E. Muslims and the News Media. 2006, page 112.
  14. Security forces on heightened terror alert - Haaretz - Israel News
  15. 15.0 15.1 Plaw, Avery (2008). "The Expansion of Israeli Targeting During the Second Intifada" (Google Book Search). Targeting terrorists : a license to kill?. Ashgate Publishing. p. 76. LCCN 2008-005474. ISBN 9780754645269.,M1. Retrieved 2009-04-06. 
  16. "". Retrieved 2007-06-18. 
  17. "". Retrieved 2007-06-18. 
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 "Sheikh Yassin denies attack role". BBC News. January 16, 2004. 
  19. The Seattle Times: Nation & World: Palestinian mother is suicide bomber in attack at border
  20. Behind the Headlines: Ahmed Yassin 22-Mar-2004
  21. Thousands mourn Hamas founder (CNN)
  22. IDF strike kills Hamas leader Ahmed Yassin (MFA)
  23. Faisal Bodi, “My Meeting with Sheikh Yasin,” Al-Jazeera (English) March 22, 2004)
  24. "". Retrieved 2007-06-18. 
  25. "".!OpenDocument. Retrieved 2007-06-18. 
  26. "".!OpenDocument. Retrieved 2007-06-18. 
  27. "".!OpenDocument. Retrieved 2007-06-18. 
  28. "".!OpenDocument. Retrieved 2007-06-18. 
  29. Template:UN document
  30. Template:UN document
  31. Template:UN document
  32. 32.0 32.1 After Sheik Is Slain, Hamas Picks Fiery Figure as Its Leader in Gaza - New York Times
  33. 33.0 33.1 33.2 Israel defiant over Yassin killing. BBC News. Monday, 22 March 2004
  34. BBC News: Blair condemns Hamas chief death
  35. President Discusses Economy and Terrorism After Cabinet Meeting
  36. U.S. Mission to Italy

External links

bg:Ахмед Ясин ca:Àhmad Yassín cs:Ahmed Jásin da:Ahmed Yassineo:Aĥmed Jasin fa:احمد یاسینhr:Ahmed Jasin id:Sheikh Ahmed Yassin is:Ahmed Yassinla:Ahmed Yassin ms:Ahmed Yassinja:アフマド・ヤースィーン no:Ahmed Yassin nn:Ahmed Yassinpt:Ahmed Yassin ru:Ясин, Ахмед sq:Ahmed Jasin simple:Sheikh Ahmed Yassin sh:Ahmed Jasin fi:Ahmad Yasin sv:Ahmad Yassin tr:Ahmed Yasin ur:احمد یاسین zh:谢赫·艾哈迈德·亚辛

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