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Abu Shanab viewed as peacemaker, instigator

Ismail Abu Shanab
Ismail Abu Shanab

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Excerpt from an April 16, 2002 interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer and recently killed Hamas founder Ismail Abu Shanab
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(CNN) -- Ismail Abu Shanab was the public face of Hamas, and one of the Islamic group's founding leaders.

On Thursday, he was killed in a station wagon in Gaza City when Israeli warplanes and helicopter gunships fired on him. Two of his bodyguards were also killed in the incident.

Abu Shanab, the 53-year-old father of 11 children, studied in the United States and received a degree in civil engineering in Colorado.

He led Hamas through two intifadas and countless other battles. He was considered by some a moderate and was an architect of the most recent cease-fire, which ended with his death.

But the Israeli military said he had been involved in planning recent attacks against Israelis.

CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer interviewed Abu Shanab in April 2002 in the midst of a cycle of violence, which included a Passover Seder suicide bombing.

He was asked whether he supported attacks against Israeli civilians.

"Nobody likes and nobody supports killing innocent people," Abu Shanab said. "But the Palestinian position is in a self-defense position, that Palestinians who suffer from Israeli occupation and from Israeli military forces, who kill and massacre and destroy all of their infrastructure and all of their improprieties."

Abu Shanab served at least seven years in prison for his role in establishing Hamas.

In recent years, he served as a liaison with Mahmoud Abbas, who has become Palestinian prime minister. At the time, Abbas was trying to persuade militant groups to stop attacking Israel.

He said that he did not encourage young Palestinians to become suicide bombers.

"They do it by their own initiative, but impressed and incited by [Israeli Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon's plan to kill more Palestinians and by Sharon's soldiers and tanks and airplanes, who kill more Palestinians."

Abu Shanab was clear about his objectives.

"We support one thing: Israeli full withdrawal from our land," he said. "If this is achieved, we support any plan which can get this Israeli occupation to withdraw. We are willing to live in peace."

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