MideastWeb Middle East Web Log
An Israeli helicopter missile strike killed Hamas leader Abdel Aziz Rantissi today, Saturday, April 17, 2004. Two other occupants of the car struck by the Israelis were killed as well. Rantissi replaced Ahmed Yassin as head of the Hamas terror group after Yassin was assassinated by Israel on March 22. Rantissi was one of the founders of the Hamas movement, and was a pediatrician by training. He had survived an earlier assassination attempt on June 10, 2003, two days after a Hamas terror strike, and it was understood that he was a marked man. He had traded his jeep for a safer closed automobile, but this did not suffice to protect him. Rantissi was critically injured in the strike and died soon after at Shiffa Hospital in Gaza. According to foreign reports, others in the car who were killed were bodyguards. According to Israeli TV Channel 2, one of Rantissi's sons was also killed. Rantissi had 6 chidlren and 10 grandchildren.
Following Rantissi's death this evening, Khaled Mash'al, who directs the Hamas from Damascus, ordered Gaza Hamas leaders to choose a new head immediately and not to make his name public. Mash'al observed that while it was commendable to die a martyr's death, it was sensible to take precautions and to avoid needless risks.
The British government immediately condemned the assassination as unlawful. The US was no doubt embarrassed by the proximity of the assassination to the visit of PM Sharon in the United States and the exchange of letters with President Bush. US spokespersons insisted that the US had no prior knowledge of the assassination, but Palestinian leaders insisted that secret clauses in the letters exchanged between Israel and the US provided cover for the assassination. According to reports, the US has indicated to Israel that it would be opposed to Israeli invasions of Gaza after the disengagement is completed.
Rantissi represented an even more extreme version of Hamas ideology than Yassin and was implacably opposed to peace with Israel on any terms as well as being an outspoken racist. He is said to be responsible for planning numerous terrorist actions. Rantissi was among those exiled to Lebanon by Israeli Prime Minister Rabin in order to make possible negotiations with the Palestinians in December 1992. World pressure and in particular pressure from US President Clinton forced Rabin to allow Rantissi to return to Gaza.
Palestinians ran through the streets vowing revenge, as they had done after the killing of Yassin. Hamas believe it is a religious duty to murder Jews. Their charter states that the 'Zionists' and Freemasons were responsible for such social calamities as French revolution. The Palestinian Authority has refused to take action to stop terrorism initiated by Hamas and other groups. Both current PM Ahmed Qurei and the previous Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmud Abbas had tried to get all Palestinian factions to agree to a truce and stop terror actions against Israel. These negotiations, hosted by Egypt, all failed, in part because Hamas wanted a greater share in running the Palestinian Authority, and in part because Israel refused to guarantee a cessation of hostilities.
Under Yassin, the Hamas had been planning a bid to dominate the Palestinian areas. Hamas was originally financed by Saudi Arabia, but in recent years significant financing has apparently come from Iran through the Hizbollah, which cooperates with the Hamas despite the fact that Hizbollah are Shi'a and the Hamas are Sunni followers of the Islamist movement. Estimates of Iraqi aid to Hamas in recent years range from $30 million a year to a request for as much as $15 million a month in a bid to take over the running of the Palestinian territories. Following the assassination of Yassin, talks were initiated to bring the Hamas into the Palestinian Authority and to return them to the PLO, which they had left when Yasser Arafat began negotiations with Israel. It is not clear if such a move would radicalize the PLO and Palestinian authority or signal moderation on the part of the Hamas. Israel believes that the former is the case.
Earlier today, a suicide bomber sent by the Hamas group and Yasser Arafat's Fatah Al-Aqsa brigades had killed an Israeli border guard and wounded a second border guard and a civilian in an attack on the Israeli side of the Erez border crossing. The bomber had come from the Erez joint industrial area, which employs about 6,000 Palestinians. Israeli PM Ariel Sharon has said that Israel would continue to allow the operation of the Erez Industrial Area when Israel withdraws from Gaza, in order to ensure employment for the Palestinians.
Though Yassin and Rantissi were long targeted by Isael along with other terrorist leaders, Israel seems particularly determined now to wipe out Hamas leadership and deal Hamas a "mortal blow" prior to the Israeli evacuation of Gaza, which critics say could encourage a Hamas takeover. It is doubtful if the assassination program will succeed. The assassination of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin raised the popularity of the Hamas in the Palestinian territories and helped pave the way for talks to include them in the government and PLO. Palestinians vowed revenge for Yassin's death then as now they vow revenge for Rantissi. Despite cries of Jihad and warnings that Israel had openned the gates of hell, very few terror attacks were carried out after the death of Yassin, though a few spectacular attempts were foiled. Hamas leaders are apparently hampered by lack of resources and the constant need to hide from Israeli assassination attempts. Nonetheless the assassinations and "activism" have raised the popularity of the organization in the eyes of Palestinians, the majority of whom continue to approve of suicide attacks as a means of "resistance," whether or not they identify with all the ideological goals of the Hamas. Hamas insists that they must take over all of the land from the river to the sea, and will not recognize Israel. In the Palestinian state that would replace Israel, Hamas intends to create an Islamic republic.
Last Update: 18/04/2004 00:21
Qureia blames U.S. bias; Israel: Rantisi was terror mastermind
"The Palestinian cabinet considers this terrorist Israeli campaign is a direct result of American encouragement and the complete bias of the American administration towards the Israeli government," he said.
Israel said it had killed a "mastermind of terrorism" by assassinating Rantisi and vowed to keep up strikes on militant leaders.
"Israel... today struck a mastermind of terrorism, with blood on his hands," Foreign Ministry spokesman Jonathan Peled told Reuters. "As long as the Palestinian Authority does not lift a finger and fight terrorism, Israel will continue to have to do so itself," he said.
Labor Chairman and Opposition leader Shimon Peres stopped short of expressing support for the assassination, but said that, "whoever deals in death pays the price."
"This is not a type of operation we are enthusiastic to carry out, we do it because we have no choice. We must fight terror with all our strength but we must also tell the Palestinians that terror is also their enemy, not only ours," said the veteran politician.
"This is a man whose gloating face appeared on television every time there was a suicide bombing that killed women and children and babies in Israel," said Israel's ambassador to the United Nations Daniel Gillerman.
"I think that the demise of this man, the fact that he is no longer with us, is very good news for the freedom loving world, for the war against terror and in fact should be greeted with very great satisfaction by the moderate Arab states," Gillerman added.
But the chair of the Yahad (formerly Meretz) faction, MK Zahava Gal-On, expressed doubt about the timing of the assassination, coming a few days after Prime Minister Ariel Sharon met U.S. President George W. Bush on his plan to withdraw from the Gaza Strip.
Gal-On said that the assassination was designed to wipe out opposition within the Likud to Sharon's disengagement plan. "Apparently there is no real intention to leave Gaza," she said.
A U.S. State Department official urged Israel to consider the consequences of its actions, saying Washington had not changed its policy of opposing targeted assassinations, and denied it had given the green light for the deadly missile strike as many Arabs have alleged about other similar attacks.
"There's been no change in our policy. We think Israel should bear in mind the consequences of what its doing and we also think the Palestinians should get a handle on terrorism," said the official, who asked not to be named.
A senior Palestinian Authority official condemned the killing of the Hamas leader as "state terror."
"We condemn in the strongest possible terms this Israeli crime and state terror. It is evident now to the world that the Palestinian people need international protection more than ever," Palestinian Minister Saeb Erekat said.
Speaking to CNN, Erekat expressed concern that Israel would now target PA Chairman Yasser Arafat. He said that acts of revenge would not serve either side, and warned that Israel and the Palestinians were in a "lose-lose" situation.
Palestinian Foreign Minister Nabil Sha'ath also attributed the decision to assassinate Rantisi on what the Palestinians believe is a forgiving American attitude toward Israel.
"I completely condemn this Israeli crime of cold blooded killing in front of the whole world, while America gives it bits of our land and our refugees' rights. The mercy of God upon Rantisi... Israel commits crimes and is rewarded by the American president. When it commits state terrorism, it gets promises."
"Israel has been given a free hand [by the United States] to continue its policy of destruction, of siege, of assassination," said Palestinian lawmaker Hanan Ashrawi.
"Right now what is happening is very dangerous. You are closing off all options. You are saying to the Palestinians you have no political recourse, no recourse to the law, no justice anywhere."
In its condemnation of the attack, Arab League also said that the killing was "state terrorism."
"This is clear proof that Israel cannot live in a climate of stability," said League spokesman Hossam Zaki. "They do not want a climate of stability. They need a climate of tension and violence."
The British government on Saturday termed the killing illegal and counter-productive.
"The British government has made it repeatedly clear that so-called 'targeted assassinations' of this kind are unlawful, unjustified and counter-productive," British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw in a statement.
Last Update: 17/04/2004 22:25
Hamas leader Rantisi killed in IAF strike in Gaza City
By Amos Harel, Yoav Stern and Arnon Regular, Haaretz Correspondents, and Agencies
Hamas leader Abdel Aziz Rantisi was killed in an Israeli helicopter missile strike on his car Saturday evening. Two other people were killed in the strike, witnesses said.
The dead included Akram Nassar, 35, Rantisi's personal bodyguard and his son Mohammed, 27, hospital officials said.
Rantisi's wife was in the car, but her condition and location was not known, hospital sources and Hamas said.
Rantisi was taken to Gaza's Shifa Hospital in critical condition, his body pocked with bloody wounds, and rushed into emergency surgery, but he died five minutes after arriving at the hospital.
The explosion occurred a block from Rantisi's house in the Sheik Radwan neighborhood of Gaza City, about 100 meters from where Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin was buried after Israel assassinated him last month.
Palestinians ran into the street following the strike and called for revenge.
The attack comes hours after a Border Policeman was killed and three other Israelis were wounded in a suicide bombing at the Erez Crossing in Gaza, which Hamas jointly claimed with Fatah.
Rantisi was the newly-appointed head of the militant group in Gaza, following Yassin's assassination.
He one of the most hard-line members of the militant movement, which rejects all compromise with Israel and calls for the destruction of the state.
Israel had previously tried to kill Rantisi June 10 when hree Apache helicopters fired at least seven missiles toward Rantisi's car in a crowded Gaza thoroughfare, reducing his vehicle to a scorched heap of metal.
Rantisi escaped with a wound to the right leg. Two Palestinian bystanders were killed.
During the mourning period for Yassin, Rantisi was defiant about Israel's threats against him.
"We will all die one day. Nothing will change. If by Apache or by cardiac arrest, I prefer Apache," he said.
Rantisi was born in 1947 in the village of Yavna near the southern coastal city of Ashkelon. During the War of Independence his family fled their home and settled in the Khan Yunis refugee camp. Rantisi, who attended school at the refugee camp, had 11 sisters and brothers. After completing his high school studies, he went on to study medicine in Egypt.
Rantisi returned to the Gaza Strip during the 1970's and worked as a pediatrician at the Naser Hospital in Khan Yunis.
The IDF first arrested Rantisi in 1983, for attempting to organize a boycott of tax payments to the Israeli civil administration authorities. He was arrested a second time in 1988, and was jailed for two and a half years for his involvement with the recently formed Hamas movement.
Rantisi was put under administrative arrest in 1990, and was included in the 400 Hamas members who were deported to Lebanon in December of 1992.
Upon his return to the strip, Rantisi was arrested numerous times by the Palestinian Authority. Recent attempts to arrest him were foiled by armed Hamas activists.
Attributed to "security sources" [From IDF Spokesperson 17 April 2004]
Abdel Aziz Rantisi, leader of the Hamas terror organization, was killed in an operation by Israeli security forces.
Rantisi, one of the founders of Hamas in the Gaza strip, was responsible for the Hamas terror policy and promoted the carrying out of deadly terror attacks.
Rantisi, 56, was recently chosen to head the Hamas organization, replacing Ahmed Yassin. Rantisi took part in establishing the terrorist policy of the organization and also served as its main spokesperson. He played a key and active role in inciting to carry out terror attacks.
Rantisi was one of the six founders of the Hamas in September 1987, along with Ahmed Yassin. He first served as head of the Hamas in Khan Yunis and was among the senior leadership of the Hamas during the first Palestinian 'Intifada'. He was jailed between 1988-1990 and following his release returned to activity in the Hamas. He was briefly Jailed in 1991.
Rantisi, originally from Khan Yunis, was by profession a doctor and a lecturer at the Islamic University. With the start of the violence in Sept 2000 he moved to the Sheikh Radwan neighborhood in Gaza.
In December 1992, he was expelled to Lebanon where he served as a spokesperson for the expelled group. In December 1993 he was arrested again after being named by other Hamas members as a contact for the terrorist
Following his release from Israeli jail he began to reorganize the Hamas leadership in the Gaza strip. He expressed extremist positions and enjoyed the support of the extremist members of the terrorist apparatus and of the Hamas leadership abroad, based in Syria. He tried to replace the old leadership of Hamas, which was active between 1995-1997 in Gaza because he felt they were too moderate. In elections held may 1997, a new leadership of 30 activists was elected. Rantisi, with the encouragement of the Hamas abroad, represented this group and was appointed spokesperson for the Hamas in Gaza.
Between 1997-2000 Rantisi was jailed periodically by the Palestinian Authority, but was able to continue to act within the Hamas and worked to strengthen his position within the Hamas organization and specifically within the leadership.
Since the outbreak of violence in September 2000, Rantisi solidified his position within the Hamas leadership. His role included:
* Virulent incitement, repeatedly calling for suicide attacks inside Israel, continued attacks in Gaza, kidnapping of Israeli soldiers and firing of mortar shells into Israel.
* Rantisi maintained contact with senior terror leaders within the Hamas and encouraged them to continue carrying out attacks. He was responsible for establishing and overseeing secret terrorist cells.
* He maintained contact with the Hamas leadership abroad and with senior members of the Palestinian Authority, advocating an extremist position which opposed any cease fire with Israel or any political arrangement between the PA and Israel. He called for continued terror attacks against Israel, all the while trying to undermine any diplomatic efforts of the PA.
Rantisi publicly called, at every possible opportunity, to continue armed attacks and specifically to increase the suicide attacks and attempt to kidnap Israeli soldiers. These public calls were taken as operational directive of the Hamas leadership.
Rantisi was officially named as the replacement of Ahmed Yassin.
The following are statements by Rantisi (source - Hamas internet site, 26th January 2004).
* There will be concession of one inch of Palestine, because it is Islamic Land.
In interviews on April 9, 2004 - "We say to the Muslim people of Iraqi, we are with you in you're struggle against the American terror and destruction, we are with you in your war in defense of Islam. We say to the fighter and commander Mokutada A- Sadr: Hamas stands by your side and blesses your
Profile: Dr Abd al-Aziz al-Rantisi
Saturday 17 April 2004, 22:14 Makka Time, 19:14 GMT
A spokesman for Hamas in Gaza, Dr Abd al-Aziz al-Rantisi was one of the most forceful proponents for the right of Palestinians to resist occupation.
He described himself as one of the seven founders of Hamas and was considered by many as second only in importance to the group's crippled spiritual leader, Shaikh Ahmad Yasin.
Yasin was assassinated in a similar missile attack by Israel in March.
A paeditrician by training, Dr al-Rantisi was a popular figure in Gaza and defended any and all means that would force Israeli troops and illegal settlers to leave Palestine.
A committed Islamist, al-Rantisi rose to prominence with Hamas during the first Palestinian intifada in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
He was arrested by Israel several times, spending as much as two and a half years in prison on one occasion.
In late 1992, the doctor was among more than 400 Palestinians deported to Lebanon.
He became a spokesman for the deportees in his camp, Marj al-Zahur.
Palestinian officials arrested him in 1998 after he demanded that a number of senior PA figures resign.
He remained a regular critic of the PA, condemning it for its apparent willingness to compromise with Israel as part of the roadmap peace plan.
Al-Rantisi criticised Prime Minister Mahmud Abbas for participating in a conference with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and US President George Bush in Jordan in June 2003.
In 2003, al-Rantisi survived an Israeli assassination attempt.
Suffering leg, arm and chest wounds, the spokesman escaped a US-made Apache helicopter gunship attack.
The helicopter fired seven missiles on his car, and killed two passers-by - a mother and her five year-old daughter.
His death leaves Khalid Mishaal - Hamas' politburo chief living in exile – as the most senior and best-known representative for the Islamist resistance movement.
Biography - Abdul Aziz Rantissi
From - http://www.us-israel.org/jsource/biography/Rantissi.html
Abd al-Aziz Rantissi was born in Yibna, near Jaffa [in 1947]. In 1948, his family moved to the Gaza Strip. He was an outstanding student. He completed his secondary school education in 1965 and was admitted as a student to the faculty of medicine at Alexandria University (Egypt). He graduated in 1972, returned to Gaza for two years, and than obtained a masters degree in Pediatrics.
Rantissi studied in Egypt for nine years and received a degree in pediatric medicine. While there, he was influenced by the philosophy of the Muslim Brotherhood.
In 1976, he returned to Gaza and became part of the Muslim Brotherhood movement. He also worked as a resident physician at Nasser Hospital (the main medical centre in Khan Yunis). He occupied several posts in public works such as a member in the administrative board of the Islamic Complex, Arab Medical Society in Gaza, and the Palestinian Red Crescent Society.
Rantisi joined the Faculty of Science at the Islamic University of Gaza when it opened in 1978 and also became Chief Pediatrician in the Government Hospital in Khan Yunis. In 1983, he was arrested for refusing to pay taxes to Israel. On January 15, 1988, he was again arrested for 21 days.
In 1987, four residents of the Jabalya refugee camp in Gaza were killed in a traffic accident. According to Rantisi, he joined with Sheikh Ahmad Yassin, 'Abdel Fattah Dukhan, Mohammed Shama', Dr. Ibrahim al-Yazour, Issa al-Najjar, and Salah Shehadeh and instructed people to exit the mosques chanting "Allah Akbar" (God is great). This was how the first intifada began, says Rantisi, under the leadership of what would subsequently be known as Hamas. The PLO later joined and a united leadership was formed. On March 4, 1988, Israel arrested him for his participation in the Intifada. He was released on September 4, 1990. On December 14, 1990 he was again arrested and placed in administrative detention.
“All the land of Palestine is a part of the Islamic faith and the Caliph Omar bin al-Khattab declared it for all Muslims. Therefore, no individual or group has the right to sell it or give it up.” (Kul al-Arab, January 9, 1998)
In December 1992, he was expelled to Lebanon, as part of the expulsion of 416 Hamas and Islamic Jihad operatives, and emerged as general spokesman of those expelled to southern Lebanon. Upon his return in 1993, he was arrested, but later released.
Rantissi was detained many times by the Palestinian Authority for his criticism of the PA and Arafat, but in most cases, was released after a short period.
After the return of Sheikh Yassin to the Gaza Strip in October 1997, Yassin, together with the senior operatives including Rantissi, reorganized the Hamas leadership in the Gaza Strip to restore its activity.
In mid-1999, following his release from a PA prison, Rantissi returned to his position as "right hand" to Yassin. During talks among the Hamas leadership in Gaza and abroad and in its contact with the PA regarding ceasing terror activity, Rantissi, together with Ibrahim Macadma and with the support of the external leadership, was one of the main opponents to any cease-fire and cessation of terrorist attacks inside Israel.
Abd al-Aziz Rantissi replaced Salah Shehadeh and Ibriahim Macadma, after they were assassinated by Israel, as the head (along with “spiritual” leader Yassin) of Hamas and its principal spokesperson.
Hamas tries to present a separation between the political leadership and the military wing, as if the military activity serves no political aim. In practice, the formal "military leadership" of the Hamas is subordinate to what is known as the "political leadership." However, it is this "political echelon" of the terrorist organizations, which directs, instructs and determines policy, including terrorist activity. Interrogation of Hamas operatives point to Rantissi as directing Hamas terrorist policy. His public statements serve as instructions for terrorists to carry out attacks.
Rantissi has considerable influence over the Palestinian public, in general and the Hamas operatives, in particular. He delivers sermons, addresses, and interviews utilizing extreme language, in which he calls for the continuation of the terrorist activity against the State of Israel and its citizens, opposing any cease fire. This serves as instructions to the field operatives in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank to continue their terrorist activity.
The Hamas leadership in Gaza is also involved in the recruitment and operation of terrorist cells among Israeli Arabs, which has so far, been thwarted by Israeli security forces. Rantissi was directly involved in directing and guiding this activity.
Rantissi is responsible for directing many terrorist attacks by Hamas, including the June 8, 2003, attack in which four Israeli soldiers were killed at the Erez Checkpoint in the Gaza Strip. Following this attack, Israel unsuccessfully attempted to assasinate Rantisi on June 10.
Upon the assassination of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin on March 22, 2004, Rantissi was named head of Hamas's activities in the Gaza Strip.
Public statements by Rantissi calling for and encouraging attacks against Israel:
January 2001: Rantissi, quoted on the Hamas website, calls to step up the painful strikes against the "Zionist enemy" in order to create a balance of deterrence and to bring about the expulsion of the enemy. He added that "what happened in Lebanon, will also happen in Palestine."
January 2001: Rantissi notes that it is clear to all that the military wing of Hamas, the Az a-Din Al Qassam, is responsible for military "operations" against the "Israeli occupation forces." Rantissi also calls for the continuation of the armed "Intifada," and states that [the hurling of stones] will not suffice.
April 2001: Rantissi admitted publicly that the Hamas fires mortars, and notes that in the future Israeli cities will be targeted.
May 2001: Rantissi calls on Hamas in Gaza to wage an all out war against Israel.
June 2001: Rantissi states on the Hamas website the intention to continue with suicide bombings. In addition, Rantissi praises the suicide bombers.
July 2001: Rantissi calls to strike every Israeli politician, especially Sharon and Peres (following the killing of Hamas operatives in Nablus) and noted that Az a-Din Al-Qassam operatives will respond.
March 2002: Rantissi, on the Hamas website, calls on the military wing of Hamas to carry out suicide attacks in Israel.
March 2002: During a television interview, Rantissi states that with"Allah's help," we will also kill Prime Minister Sharon.
April 2002: In an interview on the Hamas website following the terrorist attack in Adura, Rantissi states that this is the beginning of a cycle of revenge and that every drop of Palestinian blood will be avenged.
October 2002: During a television interview, Rantissi calls for the military wing of Hamas to carry out suicide bombings in all Israeli territory.
March 2003: Rantissi is quoted in a Reuters article following the attack on Macadma, as stating that a new phase in the war against the Jews has been initiated, and that all Israeli leaders are legitimate targets.
March 2003: An announcement by Hamas in the Gaza Strip calls for the Az a-Din Al Qassam to strike at Israeli ministers and Knesset members.
May 2003: Rantissi calls for the continuation of jihad (holy war) and "resistance" against Israeli soldiers, and states that this is "the only way to free the prisoners."
May 24, 2003: Rantissi, on Radio Teheran, states that the "Road Map" is a "scheme of Sharon's." Rantissi also notes that Sharon's acceptance of the "Road Map" is a conspiracy against the Palestinian nation and against the "resistance."
June 2003: Interviewed in "A-Sharq al-Awsat" newspaper, Rantissi stated that he does not know why Abu Mazen is optimistic about a cease-fire. He stressed that resistance to the "occupation" will continue. Additional statements by Rantissi regarding suicide bombings, including calls for such bombings against American targets:
On April 7, 2003, the Hamas website, quoted Rantissi discussing the suicide attack by two women against American soldiers in Iraq. Rantissi called for Muslims to blow themselves up against U.S. soldiers.
In a Reuters article on March 31, 2003, Rantissi notes that the Iraqi suicide bombings against American soldiers encourages Hamas to carry out suicide bombings against Israeli targets.
Rantissi and his associates opposed the creation of the new Palestinian government and flatly rejected any intention to cooperate with it to reduce violence.
On April 23, Rantissi tells a French news agency that this is not the time to establish a government, but rather, is the time for "jihad." Rantissi also notes that Hamas would accept a Government if it would tolerate terrorism against the Zionist entity, but would not support a government that did not allow terrorist activities.
In a March 30 interview to the above-mentioned agency, Rantissi states that Hamas would not accept a government which accepts Oslo and recognizes the State of Israel.
Interview with Rantissi - 1998
Straight From the Mouth of Hamas
The following is an interview with Dr. 'Abdel Aziz al-Rantisi by Kul al-Arab newspper on January 9. Dr. Rantisi, a leading figure in Hamas, is 50 years old, and is a father of six. Translated by J. Baker
Are you originally from Khan Younis?
No. I was born in Yubna and I fled from there with my family to the Gaza Strip in 1948. Yubna is in the center of the country close to Jaffa. It was mentioned in the battles of Saladin.
Have you visited Yubna?
Yes, and I have seen our house. I found a right-wing family living there.
How did that affect you?
Very strongly. The image of my city, as my parents have told me, my home and my parents' flight with me in their arms does not leave my mind. In general, the issue of forced exile from our homeland has had a profound effect on my thinking.
Where did you study religious and fundamentalist theory?
I studied in Egypt for nine years, where I received my BA in pediatric medicine. While there, I was greatly influenced by the philosophy of the Muslim Brotherhood. When I returned to Gaza in 1976, I became part of the Muslim Brotherhood movement.
When did you become a leader in Hamas?
I was one of seven: Sheikh Ahmad Yassin, 'Abdel Fattah Dukhan, Mohammed Shama', Dr. Ibrahim al-Yazour, Issa al-Najjar, Salah Shehadeh and myself.
Some say that Hamas took advantage of the Intifada for your own benefit. (With a bitter laugh) Whoever says that does not know anything. Frankly, we were the ones who declared the Intifada and encouraged the people to rise up. The seven of us gathered together after the truck incident [in which four Palestinians were killed] and instructed people to exit the mosques chanting "Allah Akbar" (God is great). A month and a half later the PLO joined and a united leadership was formed. This is after it was said at first that the Mossad was behind the Intifada.
What effect did [the deportation to] Marj al-Zuhour have on you personally and on your comrades?
But the suicide operations also branded you as terrorists assaulting civilians. You call them "suicide operations" and I call them "martyr operations". They are not terrorism. They are a response to Israeli terrorism, individuals and governmental, against Palestinian civilians. We should remember that these martyr operations began after the massacre committed by the terrorist Baruch Goldstein [in the Hebron mosque in 1994] and intensified after the assassination of Yahya Ayash.
But why civilians?
We do not support the killing of civilians and we would prefer that not one civilian be killed. If Israel's aggressive acts of killing, starving, arresting and settlement building stop, then we will halt our operations against [Israeli] civilians.
So you would agree to a settlement with the Israelis?
No settlement, no peace and no halt of Jihad as long as there is occupation. But we have announced our readiness for a truce in which there would be a withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza in return for a ceasefire.
Would [Hamas] formally recognize Israel though this truce?
No recognition of the Zionist entity. For if I cannot liberate [Palestine] then then future generations will inevitably do so.
Dr. Rantisi, don't you see that this has only become a slogan which will be difficult to achieve because of the balance of power and the weakness, division and despair of the Arabs?
Yes. I agree that the balance of power is not to our advantage. But does that mean giving up Palestine? for the weakness of the Arabs, there are defeated or weak people or those who care more for their personal life and wealth. They are not willing to sacrifice one penny. [At the same time] there are thousands who feel their souls are a cheap price to pay for their country.
Why do you attack Arafat? What do you want from him?
[We attack Arafat] because he gave up Palestine and abandoned the National Charter. Have we forgotten that the PLO was originally established in 1964 for the liberation of the 1948 lands?
But the PLO believes that it is the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. We differ with the PLO on this. We had a dialogue with them prior to the release of Sheikh Ahmad Yassin, and said that the PLO does not represent all the Palestinian parties and movements, therefore it is not the sole legitimate representative of the people.
But Hamas is asking for one third of the seats on the national council and one third of the PLO institutions. This is too much. It is actually too little. Today we are demanding 40 percent representation, although we are sure that we represent more [of the population] than that.
Where did you get these estimates, especially since you did not participate in the elections? I'm not here to evaluate Hamas' strength. However, Hamas is strong. You only have to look at the student councils in universities in the West Bank and Gaza.
But the latest opinion polls show support for Arafat at 62 percent and for Ahmad Yassin at 4 percent. (Laughingly) That is a joke.
Were you satisfied with the deal under which Sheikh Yassin was set free?
I was not satisfied. Israel released the sheikh only as a deal with Jordan after the attack on Khalid Masha'al.
Let us return to the issue of the struggle. How do you see the future of the Jews in this county?
The only matter which concerns me is the future of my people. And what worries me is for how long they will remain displaced and their lands occupied.
Is there no possibility for accepting a part of Palestine in order to end the struggle?
All the land of Palestine is a part of the Islamic faith and the Caliph Omar bin al-Khattab declared it for all Muslims. Therefore, no individual or group has the right to sell it or give it up.
I see that you have no security men. Aren't you afraid of being killed or assassinated?
Could I possibly have more security than Rabin had? And he was assassinated. We know that there are dangers but we have proven to Israel that they will pay a high price for any attack on us.
Do you see any possibility of a dialogue with the Israeli left?
I do not believe in the Peace Now movement. Whoever colonized my land and expelled me from it is an invader even if he is a leftist. If people occupy a country which is not theirs and found a peace movement, does this change the fact that they are occupiers?
Reaction to al-Rantisi assassination
Regional and international reaction has followed swiftly after the air raid on Saturday that killed the 56-year-old Hamas spokesman and the two passengers - one of whom was al-Rantisi's son - travelling in his car.
"The British government has made it repeatedly clear that so-called 'targeted assassinations' of this kind are unlawful, unjustified and counter-productive."
"We ask the international community to enforce the Geneva Convention and send an international protection force to the Palestinian territories immediately."
"Al-Rantisi's blood will not flow in vain."
"We cannot fail to be pleased with this operation for it is necessary to continue to eliminate the terrorists as we did with Yasin."
Britain's Jack Straw: Such killings
"The mercy of God upon al-Rantisi ... Israel commits crimes and is rewarded by the American president. When it commits state terrorism, it gets promises."
"We condemn this. It is state-terrorism and this is clear proof that Israel cannot live in a climate of stability. They do not want a climate of stability. They need a climate of tension and violence."
"Israel has been given a free hand by the United States to continue its policy of destruction, of siege, of assassination. Right now what is happening is very dangerous. You are closing off all options. You are saying to the Palestinians: 'You have no political recourse, no recourse to the law, no justice anywhere'."
"Al-Rantisi's only crime was to say things Israel does not want to hear. Just like Shaikh Yasin's murder, al-Rantisi's death proves Israel does not accept freedom of speech. Your tongue can make you a 'terrorist'."
"Our revenge will be swift and strong" Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades supporters
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Replies: 15 comments
So what do you expect?! You guys must be brain dead. The only way to fight Isrel is thru non-violent confrontation. Wake up..look around..see what has worked in the past. Killing civilians, women and children gets no cudos anywhere in the civilized world.
Posted by William Lewis @ 04/18/2004 04:36 AM CST
Arafat. Yassin. Rantisi. All deserve a special place in their 'paradise' with their 72 virgins, all of whom, hopefully, will be male!
Posted by mike levine @ 04/18/2004 09:54 AM CST
I'm sick and tired of hearing this "Free Palestine!" bs. Free Palestine of what exactly? Of Israel? Of Zionists? Of Jews? How come I never hear anyone cry "Free Israel!"? ... Don't pretend some of you liberals/Democrats and other anti-American types aren't sitting there thinking to yourself, "Free Israel of what exactly?" You'll have to think that one over on your own.
PS - Don't think too hard.
Posted by Patrick Markham @ 04/18/2004 10:57 PM CST
hahaha i dont know what the big deal who cares if israel kills your leaders. Isnt that what they want anyways myryrtom when you really look at it israel is fufiling there wishes by making theme myrters and giving thme the chance to be with girls in heaven. Your religious says it not me. So if i wear rantisi i would be happy i am now a myrtyr and having hot girls in heaven.
Posted by Rambadia @ 04/19/2004 07:26 AM CST
What I meant was this: Free Israel of Arafat as well as the Palestinian "Authority," all of Hamas, Hezbollah, the local al-Qaeda chapter, similar organizations, rogue suicide bombers and other violent types in general, and any and all instigators and sympathizers (by force). For that matter, free it of anti-Israelians as well (by spreading the truth), ethnic Palestinians, Arabs, and Jews alike. For just as America is better off without anti-Americans (like Senator/Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry and so many other liberals/Democrats), so Israel is better off without anti-Israelians. Why is it that Israel is the only nation in the world that gets condemned for taking out known and obvious terrorists like Yassin and Rantissi? Why is it that one can be 100% positive that if Israel were to take out Arafat in like manner it would be condemned for that, too? (Whether President Bush would follow suit in that condemnation is arguable). I'm baffled (I mean most certainly to find a better word, but I'm pressed for time) by the answers I've thus far received.
Posted by Patrick Markham @ 04/19/2004 09:06 AM CST
There is no doubt that Rantissi by his non-compromising attitude to Israel's existence and his support of suicide bombings and carnage against Israel has received his just reward. He was an evil man who hated Jews and Israelis. He was a racist "par excellence".
He had also been responsible for much of the suffering of his own people by inviting Israeli Army retaliations for his involvement in suicide bombings. He survived on destroying the hopes of his own people for statehood, which in his own mind, was based on the destruction of the Jewish State.
This epitomy of evil will not be missed by true peace seekers in the Middle East. His survival over the years was dependent on the support that he received from the brutal Hamas and their Allies whose ideology promised misguided martyrdom to their people. His loss is the gain of the true peacemakers in the Middle East.
Posted by Shimon Z. Klein @ 04/19/2004 12:09 PM CST
Imaging if the US was invaded and all US citiczens were forced to live in one small state like Maine. Imaging millions of people living in one state while the invaders live in the other 49 states. Imaging too the invaders build a wall around the states and forced you to go through checkpoints when you leave. Imaging you had no rights in that state, your power, food and even water supply was controlled by invaders. Imaging your parents and grandparents jailed or ridiculed for no reason for years. Now you have an idea of life for Palestinians. Suicide bombers are created not born - created from years of oppression. This has little to do with Islam - 20% of all Palestinians are Christians. This is more a story of life and struggle for a people who happen to be mostly Muslim. They are siffering as well. The whole 72 virgin story is not from the Quran but Hadiths. I do not condone vilonece and killing of innocent people but I understand a people who have been mercilessly oppressed for generations. We never see the pictures of children and women getting killed while riding in cars or at school. Our press show only Israel getting bombed as if they are the passive force here. How do you "terrorize" the 4th largest army in the world? Think people....
Posted by Amandla @ 04/19/2004 11:08 PM CST
Amandla, you do realize that the Palestinian people would have an independent, sovereign state (country) by now had it not been for the fact that they refuse to co-exist side-by-side with an Israeli/Jewish state. They refused to accept the UN two-state proposal in 1948, they refused to accept the king of Jordan's proposal, they refused to accept the 2000 proposal under the Clinton administration. If they had accepted the two-state solution in 2000, they would today have an independent, sovereign state (country) consisting of both the so-called Gaza Strip and the West Bank with a land-bridge between the two and with East Jerusalem as its capital. They rejected it. They've always rejected the two-state solution. And the reality of the Palestinian "refugees" is far from what you espouse (more on that some other time). ... There are a number of other points I would like to make and could make, but it's simply too hot today.
PS - You'll have to forgive me for not even attempting to tackle your comment about Palestinian Christians. I'm a Christian myself, and I simply would not care if, in fact, 100% of the Palestinian population considered themselves Christians. Terrorism is terrorism.
Posted by Patrick Markham @ 04/20/2004 04:22 AM CST
I failed in pointing out, in light of Amandla's reference to "our" media, that I can only assume Amandla is an American citizen, and in light of Amandla's anti-Israeli rhetoric (which, by the way, is generally identical to anti-American sentiment) is anti-American, and I'd like to do that now. Certainly another liberal, probably another Democrat as well. God save us.
Posted by Patrick Markham @ 04/20/2004 04:25 AM CST
It is easy to reduce the conflict to a good and a bad side, or one agressor and one victim like is done in other comments here. Both things stated are true: the Palestinians suffer and live under hard conditions, and the suicide bombings are awful and Israel has the right to defend itself against them. But the suffering of the Palestinians is not only due to the Israeli occupation, and the occupation is caused also by the Arab neighbours of Israel that the first 25 years of Israels existence did everything they could to destroy this country. Terrorism was there before the occupation, or you must see the very existence of Israel as an occupation, a stance that makes peace impossible of course.
Posted by Ratna Pelle @ 04/20/2004 06:39 AM CST
Ratna Pelle, Ratna Pelle, Ratna Pelle. You seem to be on the right side, albeit a bit confused. Regarding your question, "Is this a good way to fight terrorism?" the answer is of course yes. It's not the only way, but rather is a part of a more comprehensive strategy. Nonetheless, it is still a part of that more comprehensive strategy. Take Osama bin Laden, for example. Would taking him out eliminate al-Qaeda and all like-minded organizations? No. Should we therefore think for even a second that killing Osama bin Laden is not in the best interest of America? No way! It is the same with Israel. Speculation as to whether or not it is possible for Israel to unilaterally dismantle Hamas (whether by targeting Hamas leadership alone or by the more comprehensive strategy in general) is not what matters; what matters is the fact that these guys (Yassin and Rantissi, for example) are terrorists and deserve what they get. As I've said before, terrorism is terrorism is terrorism. You commit it, you pay for it. End of discussion. And what's this talk of "moderate peace-seeking Palestinians"? I was unaware there were such men (and/or women). Honestly, the only truly peace-seeking Palestinians I can think of are Christians who support the one-state (ie, Israel) solution, but even they are a minority among their own people (ie, Palestinian Christians, not Christians worldwide). Seriously, can you (or anyone of our other readers) come up with the name of even one truly "moderate peace-seeking" Palestinian? (And no, Palestinian Christians who support the "one-state" [ie, Israel] solution don't count.)
Posted by Patrick Markham @ 04/20/2004 08:52 AM CST
Hello Patrick, thank you for your reaction. I am not confused, but just not so sure about things as you are, and I think that is not something bad. I donÂ´t like your talking about the Â´rightÂ´ side, like there is a wrong and a right side and who is not with us is against us.
Posted by Ratna Pelle @ 04/21/2004 05:50 AM CST
Please stop encourage people wraped with stupid jihud bomb and killing innocent people.It is idiot and show your desperate I am sick of your gang _uck off!!
Posted by Fatehr of Abdul Aziz Rantissi @ 04/21/2004 01:07 PM CST
The Israelis merely kill with different weapons than the Palestinians. They kill innocent civilians as well. You can claim that they "didn't try to" but in reality it's just that they don't care.
Posted by Bystander @ 04/23/2004 09:41 AM CST
the most merciful Allah has a special teaching for us in the events that have encountered the believers of allah of late.
Posted by dan m g @ 04/24/2004 03:13 PM CST
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