On March 22nd, 2004, two Israeli warplanes targeted and attacked with several missiles a totally paralyzed elderly man pushed on a wheelchair. Minutes later, all Palestine and all Arab and Muslim countries erupted in protest and anger.
Sheikh Ahmad Yassin, 68, did not resist the occupation carrying guns or even stones. He was a man with a vision and a mission. He was the mastermind of the new Palestinian generation that swore to be free. And for that, Israel sought to imprison him and kill him.
The death of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin took his body away from his followers and supporters. But his mind and his ideas will live forever in their hearts and minds.
Ahmad Yassin, founder of Hamas Movement, has had a distinctive political and spiritual place in the hearts of the Palestinian resistance, which made him one of the notable figures of the Palestinian national struggle of the past century.
Ahmad Ismail Yassin was born in a historic village of ancient Ashkelon known as Al-Jorah in June, 1936. In that same year, the first armed revolution against the increasing Zionist influence in the Palestinian territories was launched. His father died when he was five.
Ahmed Yassin witnessed the Arab defeat, also known as Nakba, in 1948 when he was 12 years old. Talking about that time, Yassin said, “The Arab armies that came to fight Israel unarmed us with the pretext that no force would be present other than the armies’. Consequently, our fate was attached to theirs, and we were defeated by their defeat. The Zionist gangs then started waging massacres and pogroms terrorizing the defenseless Palestinians. Had our arms been in our hands, the course of events would have been different.”
Yassin enrolled to Al-Jourah Primary School for the first five grades. Nonetheless, the Nakba that befell Palestine and displaced its people forced him along with hundreds of thousands to evacuate. His family ended up in Gaza. In Gaza, everything was different and the family suffered poverty, starvation, and deprivation, like most of the displaced families then.
Ahmed Yassin used to go to the Egyptian military camps with his counterparts to collect the leftovers of the soldiers’ food to feed their families. He quit school for a year, 1949-1950, to help his seven-member family’s livelihood by working in a small fast food restaurant in Gaza. He went back to school later on.
When he was 16 years old, Yassin had an accident that changed his entire life. He had a fractured neck vertebra while he was playing with his counterparts in 1952. After forty-five days with a gypsum-splinted neck, he learned that he would spend the rest of his life paralyzed.
Furthermore, he suffered from many diseases, including loss of vision in the right eye due to brutal Israeli investigation while he was in jail. He also suffered from a severe weakness in the left eye, a chronic inflammation of the ear, lungs diseases, and other gastrointestinal infections.
Yassin finished high school in 1957/58 and managed to get a job despite the initial refusal due to his health condition. And most of his teaching income was spent helping his poor family.
When he was 20, he took part in the demonstrations that broke out in Gaza to protest the tripartite aggression on Egypt in 1956. He showed rhetorical and organizational capacities as he actively joined his counterparts in refusing the international supervision over Gaza and insisting on the importance of the return of the Egyptian administration.
His oratorical skills began to develop distinctively and his name started to resonate among the scholars of Gaza. This invoked the Egyptian intelligence to arrest him in 1965 as part of its crack on Muslim Brotherhood. He remained in solitary confinement for around a month since he had no connection to the Brotherhood.
His time in jail affected him as he described its impacts on him saying, “[My time in jail] deepened my hatred for oppression and emphasized that the legacy of any authority depends on its justice, and belief in the human right of living free.”
The Israeli occupation
Yassin’s activism disturbed the Israeli occupation, so he was arrested in 1982 and charged with forming a military organization and possession of weapons. He was sentenced to 13 years in prison, but he was released in 1985 in a prisoners swap deal between the occupation authorities and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
Founding Hamas Movement
In 1987, Yassin agreed with a number of Islamic leaders, who adopted the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood in the Gaza Strip, to establish an Islamic organization to resist the occupation until the liberation of Palestine. They agreed to name it “The Islamic Resistance Movement”, more commonly known by its acronym “Hamas”.
As Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, controlled by Fatah the mainstream faction of the PLO, carry contradictory strategies, the PA often tends to put pressure on Hamas. Asa one of those pressures, the PA imposed house arrest on Sheikh Yassin more than once.
On September 6th, 2003, Yassin survived an Israeli assassination attempt as an Israeli helicopter targeted a flat where Ahmad Yassin and Ismail Haniyeh were meeting with off Hamas members. Yassin was slightly wounded in his right arm.
At the break of dawn on Monday, March 22nd, 2004, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin was brutally murdered by Israeli Apaches. The helicopters launched three rockets on his wheelchair while he was leaving Al-Mujamma Al-Islami Mosque in Al-Sabra neighborhood, Gaza. Seven of his attendants were also killed and two of his sons were injured in this attack that was commanded by Ariel Sharon, the Prime Minister of Israel then.
The struggle goes on Sheikh Ahmed Yassin was one of those few and rare individuals who gave everything to Palestine. His path was clear as crystal: Palestine comes first. Sheikh Yassin always taught Palestinians that the killing of leaders should never stop the struggle but ignite it. And nowadays, we have hundreds of thousands in Palestine following the steps of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin.