Monday, March 22, 2004

Sheikh Ahmed Yassin is Dead

Good riddance. The man was as much a murderer as any of the thugs he incited to kill on his behalf.

ERUSALEM, Monday, March 22 — Sheik Ahmed Yassin, the spiritual leader and founder of the militant Palestinian group Hamas, was killed early Monday by an Israeli missile that struck him as he left a mosque in Gaza City, his family and Hamas officials said. They said at least two bodyguards had been killed with him.

Sheik Yassin, a symbol to Palestinians of resistance to Israel and to Israelis of Palestinian terrorism, was by far the most significant Palestinian militant killed by Israel in more than three years of conflict.

Black smoke curled over Gaza City as Palestinians began burning tires in the streets and demonstrators chanted for revenge. Mosque loudspeakers blared a message across Gaza of mourning for Sheik Yassin in the name of Hamas and another militant group, Al Aksa Martyrs Brigades.

The Israeli military confirmed the killing, saying in a statement that the sheik was "responsible for numerous murderous terror attacks, resulting in the deaths of many civilians, both Israeli and foreign."

The army said it had targeted a car carrying Sheik Yassin, but Palestinians at the scene said that the Sheik was not in car when he was hit.

The Israeli weapons punctured the pavement of the street where Sheik Yassin, a quadriplegic, was being escorted home. Blood spattered the walls of surrounding buildings. "I could not recognize the sheik, only his wheelchair," said one witness, Maher al-Beek.


Hamas is officially committed to Israel's destruction, not just a withdrawal from the occupied territories. The word means "zeal" in Arabic, and that is an acronym for Islamic Resistance Movement.

The group runs a network of low-cost clinics and schools that have broadened its ideological reach while helping to give its popularity a boost among Palestinians. Israeli security officials regard it as the most organized and disciplined of the militant groups.

This man possibly did more to set back the cause of Palestinian independence than anyone but Yasser Arafat himself. Still, I don't really expect to see a change in direction from Hamas, not unless Israel seriously steps up the pressure by getting rid of all of the organization's upper management.