Yasin, Ahmad Ismaeil (1936–2004)

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YASIN, AHMAD ISMAEIL (1936–2004)

Palestinian Islamic activist, born in the village of al-Jura near Ashqelon. Shaykh Yasin was the founding father and spiritual guide of HAMAS. In 1948, during the first Israeli-Arab conflict, he and his family became a refugees in the Gaza Strip, where four years later, as a result of an accident, he became hemiplegic for life. In 1956 he went to Egypt to study Arabic literature and religion, and there he joined the Muslim Brotherhood. He returned to Gaza, teaching religion and preaching for a number of years, and in 1973 he created the Islamic Collective (al-Majmaʿa al-Islami), sponsored by the Muslim Brotherhood, and became active in charity work. He was assisted by Ibrahim al-Yazuri, Abd al-Aziz Rantisi, and Mahmud Zahhar.

Yasin became one of the guiding lights of the Palestinian Islamic movement. In October 1983 he was arrested by Israeli authorities and sentenced to thirteen years in prison for possession of arms and constitution of armed cells. In 1985, as part of a prisoner exchange between the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine—General Command and Israel, he was released and placed under house arrest in Gaza. The Palestinian Islamic movement, in the meantime, had become radicalized under the influence of some of Yasin's close collaborators. On 14 December 1987, with six other Muslim Brothers, he


published a communiqué supporting the Intifada that had just broken out in the Gaza Strip and announcing the creation of the Islamic Resistance Movement (Harakat al-Muqawima al-Islamiyya), or HAMAS. HAMAS rejected any compromise with Israel, preaching jihad for Islamic recovery of the whole of Palestine; it played an important role in the Intifada and was classified by Israel as a terrorist organization.

In May 1989 Yasin was again arrested and on 15 October was sentenced to life in prison. From his prison cell he continued to direct HAMAS and maintain its unity. On 1 October 1997, following a failed Mossad assassination attempt on Jordanian soil against a HAMAS representative, King Hussein of Jordan obtained his release, as well as that of some twenty other prisoners who held Jordanian passports. After passing through Amman to undergo medical examinations, Yasin arrived in Gaza on 6 October, where he was welcomed as a returning hero. On 2 May 1998 he launched an appeal to Palestinian Authority (PA) President Yasir Arafat asking him to join the "resistance front" against Israel. On 25 June, after a long tour through the Gulf countries, Iran, Syria, Egypt, and Sudan, Yasin returned to Gaza in spite of some administrative difficulties. In an interview he declared his opposition to HAMAS participation in a PA national unity cabinet and called for jihad against Israel. On 29 October he was assigned to house arrest by the PA following an attack in Gaza by members of his movement. In July 1999, following Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak's appeal for a "peace of the brave," he replied that HAMAS wanted a peace restoring the rights of the Palestinians, the end of Israeli occupation, the dismantling of the Jewish settlements, and the restitution to Jerusalem of its Islamic character.

In 2000 he criticized the PA for taking part in the Camp David talks in July. At the same time, however, he announced that if the Israelis stopped attacking Palestinian civilians HAMAS would stop attacking Israeli civilians, and that if the Israelis pulled out of the West Bank and Gaza Strip HAMAS would observe a truce. With the outbreak of the al-Aqsa Intifada in the Palestinian territories in October 2000, HAMAS and the PA reconciled. In November 2000 HAMAS joined the resistance committees on which national and Islamic forces coordinated their local actions.

At the beginning of 2001, when the Intifada was intensifying in the Palestinian territories, Yasin reaffirmed HAMAS's determination in the struggle, intensifying its campaign of suicide bombings against Israeli civilians, leading to many Israeli reprisal operations. In September 2003 the Israelis attempted to assassinate Yasin by bombing a house they believed he was in. On 22 March 2004 they succeeded in killing him in a helicopter-fired missile attack.

SEE ALSO Aqsa Intifada, al-; Arab-Israel Conflict (1948); Arafat, Yasir; Barak, Ehud; Camp David II Summit; Gaza Strip; HAMAS; Intifada (1987–1993); Jihad; Muslim Brotherhood; Palestinian Authority; Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine–General Command; Rantisi, Abd al-Aziz; West Bank.

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