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Source: CNN


Car hit by rockets as Yassin left mosque

Monday, March 22, 2004 Posted: 0427 GMT (1227 HKT)

Sheikh Ahmed Yassin

(CNN) -- Hamas founder and spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin was killed in an apparent airstrike by Israeli forces Monday morning as he was being driven from a mosque, Hamas and Palestinian security sources told CNN.

Five others were killed in the strike, sources said.

Yassin's car and the cars carrying his bodyguards were hit by three rockets as they left the mosque after prayers.

Thousands of angry Palestinians gathered around his minutes after the attack, calling for revenge against Israel.

In September, Yassin, who used a wheelchair, was lightly wounded in an Israeli missile strike in Gaza City. At the time he vowed "jihad will continue."

Thousands of Palestinian Hamas supporters marched through the streets in support of Yassin after the strike last year.

Yassin founded Hamas in 1987, during the Palestinian intifada. Hamas is a fundamentalist Islamic organization whose military wing, Izzedine al Qassam, has carried out attacks on Israeli civilian and military targets. The U.S. State Department and Israel consider Hamas a terrorist organization.

An Israeli court convicted Yassin in 1989 of ordering Hamas members to kidnap and kill two Israeli soldiers.

He was sentenced to life in prison, but was freed in 1997 under the terms of a deal arranged by the late King Hussein of Jordan, who asked Israel to release Yassin in exchange for two Israeli Mossad agents, who attempted to assassinate Khalid Mishaal, a Hamas leader in Jordan.

The Palestinian Authority has placed Yassin under house arrest on a number of occasions since his release, most recently in December, 2001, after a series of terror attacks that killed 25 Israelis.

That detention triggered demonstrations and clashes with Palestinian police.

Yassin was born in 1938 in what was then the British mandate of Palestine. His family became refugees in Gaza during the violence that followed Israel's creation in 1948.

On September 15, twin suicide bombings jointly claimed by Hamas and Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades killed 10 people in the Israeli port city of Ashdod.

Immediately after the terrorist bombings, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon canceled a planned meeting with Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qorei.

The scheduled talks were an attempt to revive the so-called "road map" to Mideast peace.

The plan, backed by the United States, European Union, United Nations and Russia, calls for steps by both sides aimed at ending the conflict and establishing an independent Palestinian state by 2005.


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