The life and death of Shaikh Yasin

Shaikh Ahmad Yasin was born in 1936 in al-Jura, a Palestinian village that no longer exists.

Shaikh Ahmad Yasin was killed on 22 March 2004

His birthplace was bulldozed, along with nearly 500 other Palestinian towns and villages in 1948, following the occupation of Palestine.

His life

Young Ahmad Yasin accompanied his family and tens of thousands of refugees to the Gaza Strip, a place that later became synonymous with dispossession, poverty and resistance.

The early years of his life were once again impeded, this time by an injury he sustained while playing sports at the age of 12. It left him quadriplegic, and forced to use a wheelchair for life.

Despite his paralysis, Yasin left Gaza to Egypt in 1959 where he spent a year studying in Ain Shams University.

Forced to cut short his academic career due to a lack of funds, he returned to Gaza. 

However, Yasin returned home deeply influenced by Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, a movement that inspired the ideological framework of the Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, established by Yasin many years later.

He worked as a teacher of Arabic and Islamic studies, gaining the reputation of being one of the strip’s most respected preachers.


Shaikh Yasin was very popular
with young Palestinians

In 1983, he was arrested by the Israeli occupation forces in Gaza and was sentenced to 13 years in prison for allegedly forming an underground organisation and possessing weapons.

He was released two years later as part of a prisoner swap.

In 1987, he founded Hamas. “He was at the time the Gaza-based leader of the Muslim Brotherhood,” says the movement’s official website,

He was again arrested and sentenced to 40 years in prison in 1989, this time charged with inciting violence and ordering the killing of an Israeli soldier.

The father of 11 children spent eight years in prison, aided by two of his sons who volunteered to accompany their quadriplegic father in his cell.

Released in 1997 after a deal forged between Israel and King Husayn of Jordan, Yasin’s health worsened. In prison, he had lost vision in his right eye and suffered from respiratory diseases and hearing loss.


Yasin was used a wheelchair for
most of his life

During the second uprising (al-Aqsa Intifada) which began in September 2000, Yasin proposed several ceasefire initiatives with Israel, granted that the latter would withdraw from the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem and cease assassinating Palestinian activists.

He strongly defended the Palestinian people’s right to resist the occupation and often criticised the Palestinian Authority for discounting the armed resistance option in its dealings with Israel.

His death

The Israeli government of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon had openly called for Shaikh Yasin’s assassination.


The Hamas leader was killed after
praying in a mosque

On 6 September 2003, Yasin survived an attempt on his life when an Israeli F-16 fighter jet fired several missiles at a home in Gaza city. The ailing resistance leader was slightly wounded.

Finally, Israel managed to assassinate him on 22 March 2004, along with nine other people.

“His wheelchair was twisted. Two or three people were laying next to him on the ground,” said a taxi driver describing the bloody scene in Gaza.

The most prominent Palestinian leader to be assassinated by Israel was targeted while on his way out of a Gaza mosque after the early morning prayer.

The attack was carried out by Israeli helicopters that struck him along with several others.

The killing sparked an array of responses worldwide.

Palestinian response

In an exclusive interview with, the West Bank leader of Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, Zakariya al-Zubaidi, vowed swift retaliation.

“Our response to the assassination of Shaikh Yasin will not be like any other. Those who ordered the killing have committed a grave mistake. They will pay very dearly.”

Al-Zubaidi continued: “Yasin was not only a symbol of resistance, but a symbol of Palestinian unity.

“The resistance shall intensify with the shaikh’s death. Our brigades will retaliate and the response this time will be more painful. We shall not yield until the last drop of our blood.”

Jamal Shati, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council and the head of the refugees affairs, told that the assassination of Yasin is further proof that the Israeli government only understands “the language of blood”.

“For every action, there is a reaction,” he said, speaking of an imminent Palestinian response. “What else does Israel expect from us while it continues with its murderous campaign that excludes no one?


Palestinians march in the city of
Nablus to protest over the killing

“The death of Shaikh Yasin highlights the greatness of responsibility now facing the Palestinian people. This is a collective responsibility. Palestinians must reconsider their political approach toward Israel.”

Raid Abbas, a member of the central committee of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine in the West Bank said: “Israel’s goal is to quell the Palestinian uprising and weaken the spirit of the resistance.

“This assassination is part of Sharon’s muscle flexing prior to any move regarding Gaza. He thinks that this way he can impose whatever policy he finds suitable on the Palestinian people.

“Now Israel has crossed all the red lines. The Palestinian Authority and every Palestinian faction must face the Israeli crime collectively.”

Dr Abd Al-Aziz al-Rantisi, a prominent Hamas activist, described Yasin as a “man in a nation, and a nation in a man. And the retaliation of this nation will be of the size of this man.”

Palestinian negotiator Saib Uraiqat said: “This will add fuel to the fire, and the cycle of violence and counter-violence.”

Meanwhile, prime minister Ahmad Quraya stated that the killing of Yasin, was “one of the biggest crimes that the Israeli government has committed”.

Israeli response

On the other hand, the Israeli government viewed the Hamas leader’s death in a different light.


Thousands mourn the killing
of Shaikh Ahmad Yasin

In an Israeli radio interview Deputy Defence Minister Zeev Boim accused the assassinated leader of being the mastermind of the “terror network in the Gaza Strip”.

Prime minister Sharon had personally supervised the bloody attack on Yasin, according to Israeli radio.

Finance minister Binyamin Netanyahu hailed the killing of Yasin, saying: “Even if, in the short term, there will be a harsh response from Hamas, in the long term the effect will be to rein in Hamas and the rest of the terror organisations because their leaders will know that they will be destroyed.”

Gideon Meir, an official at the Israeli Foreign Ministry, made the claim that Yasin had been “the one who is sending children and women to explode themselves,” inside Israel.

Avi Pazner, an Israeli government spokesman, also boasted about the “long run” benefit of assassinating Yasin.

“In the short run we will face more tension, but in the long run there is no doubt whatsoever we have improved the possibility of more security by weakening an extremely dangerous and murderous terrorist organisation.”

Arab response

Iraq’s US-appointed Governing Council denounced the assassination, linking it to the deteriorating security situation in Iraq.


Palestinian refugees in Baghdad
carry a mock coffin of Yasin

Council member Muwaffaq al-Rubaiyi told AFP news agency: “We condemn the killing, which will only serve to strengthen the justification for terrorist acts in the world and does not serve peace.”

In Kuwait, Prime Minister Shaikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah said: “Violence will increase now because violence always breeds violence.”

The head of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Muhammad Akif, described Yasin as a “martyr” and his assassination a ”cowardly operation.”

In an interview with Aljazeera, Sudan’s Islamic leader, Hasan al-Turabi, said the killing of Yasin will “put pressure on the Arab governments that have so far let down the Palestinian cause.”

Meanwhile, Jordanian King Abd Allah II described Israel’s killing as a “crime”.

Lebanon’s president Emile Lahud vehemently denounced the Israeli act. “Israel has committed a crime but will not succeed in liquidating the Palestinian cause, for the resistance is going to increase.”

The spiritual leader of Lebanon’s Hizb Allah resistance movement, Shaikh Muhammad Husayn Fadl Allah, accused US president George Bush of complicity.

“Bush is a killer in the manner of Ariel Sharon. It is he who gave the green light to the Zionist criminals for them to carry out their acts of liquidations and their war of extermination of the Palestinian people.”

International response

The United States responded in much more muted terms with a state department spokesman urging “all sides to remain calm and exercise restraint”.


An injured Palestinian boy after
clashes with Israeli soldiers

British foreign secretary Jack Straw led the international condemnation of the killing of Yasin, saying: “It is unacceptable, it is unjustified and it is very unlikely to achieve its objective.”

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana stated: “This is very, very bad news for the peace process. The policy of the European Union has been to consistently condemn extra-judicial killing.”

Echoing his comments, French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said: “Such acts can only feed the spiral of violence.”

Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Alexander Yakovenko, commented: “Moscow is deeply concerned about the situation. It threatens a new wave of violence, which could sabotage efforts to restart negotiations between the Palestinians and Israelis by the ‘quartet’ of international mediators and key regional powers.”

Iran on the other hand described the killing as a “criminal act”.

The Islamic Republic’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Hamid Reza Asefi, said, Yasin’s murder was a “further example of the Zionist regime’s barbarity,” warning, Israel it “will plunge further into the crisis it brought upon itself.”

Yasin in his own words


Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat
with Yasin in November 1997

Aljazeera had met with Yasin on several occasions. During these interviews, the Palestinian leader highlighted his movement’s position on the Arab-Israeli conflict, the peace process and resistance.

This is a selection of some of these quotations: 

“The Oslo accord, as we see it, is an unjust and a bad agreement that will not fulfil our people’s aspirations and goals.

“In my view, [the Oslo Accords] sowed the seeds of disunity among the Palestinian people and aimed at halting the Intifada against the Israeli army.

“The agreement has fulfilled no goals. What was implemented of it was too little to meet our aspirations, which made this agreement null and void.

“No Palestinian was convinced that this path will lead to peace, secure Palestinian territories or establish a Palestinian state.

“What I believe is that the Palestinian Authority has no option but to go back to the path of resistance, unify the ranks of the Palestinian people in the face of the Israeli occupation.


Shaikh Yasin is lifted on to the
main stage of a Hamas rally

“Up to the moment, the position of Hamas is that jihad is a strategic option that we will not deviate from, unless Israel agrees to a truce. 

“As I see it, Israel was founded on oppression and the confiscation of land. Any entity which is based on oppression and land grabs is doomed for disintegration.”

“If I am killed there will arise a thousand like me.

“They [the Israelis] should know that the battle will continue and that our people will hold them to account and make them pay the price of their crimes.

“I believe our predicament is tough and calls for sacrifices and patience. But the future is on our side, God willing.”

Source: Al Jazeera