Rantisi, Abd Al-Aziz (1948–2004)

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RANTISI, ABD AL-AZIZ (1948–2004)

Palestinian Islamist, born near Jaffa, in Palestine. In 1948, at the time of the first Israeli-Arab conflict, Abdul Aziz Rantisi and his family became refugees in the Khan Yunis camp, in the Gaza Strip. After studying in Alexandria, Egypt, where he frequented the Muslim Brotherhood, he became a pediatrician and also started to teach religion at the Islamic University of Gaza. In 1973, with Shaykh Ahmad Yasin, Mahmud al-Azhar, and Ibrahim al-Yazuri, he participated in the creation of the Islamic Collective (al-MajmaE al-Islami), a charity helping the disadvantaged, supported by the Muslim Brotherhood.

In October 1987 the Israeli authorities banned him from working in hospitals because he refused to pay taxes to the "Israeli occupier." On 14 December, with Shaykh Yasin, Abdallah Darwish, Salah Shahada, and Ahmad Shamah, he participated in founding HAMAS. Between 1988 and 1990 he was imprisoned a number of times by the Israeli authorities, and in 1992 he was among the 417 Islamists banished to South Lebanon by Israel. During his expulsion, he was the spokesperson for those among the banished who belonged to HAMAS. On 15 December 1993, along with some hundred others, he was allowed to return to Israel, where as soon as he arrived he was again arrested. Freed on 21 April 1997, he returned to the political arena. On 9 April 1998 he was arrested by the Palestinian police for having accused the Palestinian Authority (PA) of being responsible for the death of Muhyaddin al-Sharif, a member of the armed branch of HAMAS. He was held until February 2000 without trial for the same killing. He was again arrested by the PA in July 2000 and held until December after having accused the leadership of treason for participating in that year's Camp David talks.

Over the next year he was arrested and released several times as the Palestinian authorities responded to Israeli demands that measures be taken against the Islamist movement. After December 2001, while the al-Aqsa Intifada was raging, he was frequently under house arrest. In 2003 he survived an Israeli attempt to assassinate him using helicopter-fired missiles. On 22 March 2004, following the Israeli assassination (by missile) of Shaykh Yasin, he became the head of HAMAS. On 17 April, in Gaza, Rantisi was assassinated the same way.

SEE ALSO Aqsa Intifada, al-; Arab-Israel War (1948); Camp David Accords; Camp David II Summit; Gaza Strip; HAMAS; Muslim Brotherhood; Palestinian Authority; Yasin, Ahmad Ismaʿil.