gunships have fired missiles at Shaikh Ahmad Yasin as he
a mosque after dawn, killing the Hamas leader and at
least six other people.
Witnesses said Israeli
helicopters fired three missiles at Yassin and his
bodyguards around 5 A.M. local time as they left the
mosque. Yassin was killed instantly and up to seven
bodyguards, reportedly including Yasin's son, were also
said to have been killed. Hamas officials confirmed that
Yassin had been killed.
One witness who lives
near the mosque told reporters what happened moments
after the first explosion. "I looked to see where Shaikh
Ahmad Yasin was," he said. "He was lying on the ground
and his chair was destroyed. People there darted left
and right. Then another two missiles landed." Yasin's
body was evacuated to Gaza City's Shifa Hospital.
At least six people
died in the attack including at least two of Yasin's
bodyguards, and 10 more were wounded. Shaikh Yasin's two
sons were moderately hurt.
"The shaikh is dead.
The shaikh is dead," sobbed Hamas resistance fighters
who gathered at the scene.
Palestinians, many in tears, poured into the streets and
fighters fired into the air. Palestinian Authority
officials condemned the attack.
"This is a crazy and
very dangerous act. It opens the door wide to chaos.
Yasin is known for his moderation and he was controlling
Hamas and therefore this is a dangerous, cowardly act,"
said Prime Minister Ahmad Quraya.
fighters vowed to "bring death to every house" in Israel
"Shaikh Ahmad Yasin rest in peace. They will never enjoy
rest. We will send death to every house, every city,
every street in Israel," Hamas resistance fighters
shouted through loudspeakers in the streets of Gaza
The Israel Occupation
Forces confirmed that Yassin had been killed in the
strike, saying he was directly responsible for dozens of
"In an operation by security forces [Monday] morning in
the northern Gaza Strip, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, leader of
the Hamas terrorist group and personally responsible for
dozens of terrorist attacks and the deaths of Israelis,
foreigners and security personnel, was killed in an air
strike on his car," the army said in a statement.
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon oversaw the entire
operation, receiving constant updates from military
officials at his Negev ranch.
Army Radio reported that the decision to assassinate
Yassin was taken following the March 14 double suicide
bombing at the Ashdod port in which 10 people were
Yassin was lightly wounded in a failed Israeli attempt
to assassinate him last September.
On Sunday, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz told the cabinet
that the defense establishment was drawing up a plan to
severely weaken Hamas ahead of Israel's implementation
of its disengagement plan.
Cars drove through the
streets blaring calls for revenge over loudspeakers.
Some aired recordings of Yassin, saying, "We chose this
road, and will end with martyrdom or victory."
Mosques read passages from the Quran and two Gaza
churches rang their church bells.
Announcing Yassin's death, the Hamas leadership said,
"Sharon has opened the gates of hell and nothing will
stop us from cutting off his head," referring to Israeli
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon."
Yasin, who was in his
late 60s, has been confined to a wheelchair since an
accident as a teenager that paralysed him. He was also
was sentenced by Israel in 1989 to a life term for
founding Hamas and inciting Palestinians to attack
Israelis. But Israel released him in 1997 as a goodwill
gesture to Jordan's King Husayn after an attempt to
assassinate Hamas leader Khalid Mishal in Jordan failed.