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Hamas founder targeted in Gaza airstrike

Sheikh Ahmed Yassin was injured in Saturday's strike.
Sheikh Ahmed Yassin was injured in Saturday's strike.

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Ahmed Yassin

(CNN) -- Hamas founder and spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin vowed "jihad will continue" after being lightly wounded in an Israeli missile strike in Gaza City.

Ismail Haniyeh, a Hamas political leader, and Marwan Abu Ras, a Hamas member and professor at Islamic University, were also injured. Ten others, all bystanders, were hurt in the strike and were taken from the scene by ambulances, Palestinian sources said.

Just hours after the attack Yassin said: "Days will prove that the assassination policy will not finish the Hamas. Hamas leaders wish to be martyrs and are not scared of death.

"Jihad will continue and the resistance will continue until we have victory, or we will be martyrs."

The strike came as Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas submitted his resignation. (Full story)

The Israel Defense Forces confirmed the attack, saying its air force struck a building "in which the terrorists leadership of Hamas headed by Sheik Ahmed Yassin was meeting to plan future attacks against Israelis. The IDF will continue to wage a relentless war against Hamas and other terror organizations."

Witnesses said the building where Abu Ras lives was hit with a missile fired from an F-16 warplane. There were also reports that the strike was carried out by helicopter gunships.

Yassin, Haniyeh and Abu Ras were meeting in the three-story building. The third floor was struck, but the three apparently were not on that level.

The wheelchair-bound Yassin is the highest-ranking Hamas official to be targeted by Israel since the group's military wing and Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the August 19 terrorist bus bombing in Jerusalem that killed 21 people.

Thousands of Palestinian Hamas supporters marched through the streets of Gaza City in support of Yassin, who suffered a hand injury.

Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a group linked to Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement, published a leaflet in Gaza condemning the Israeli attack. In the leaflet, the group issued several messages. Al Aqsa:

• "Called for unity between all national and Islamic forces and to put aside all the disagreements between them.

• "Called for increase in military and jihad actions anywhere they can (inside Israel as well as in the occupied territories).

• "Target any and all political, military targets in Israel and achieve these goals wherever they may be.

• "Issued a warning to anyone who may harm or threaten Yasser Arafat."

Since the bus bombing, Israel has killed 12 Hamas figures and left another brain dead and on life support.

But the strikes against known Hamas figures have also left at least one Palestinian bystander dead and more than 50 injured.

Yassin released in prisoner swap deal

Hamas is a fundamentalist Islamic organization whose military wing, Izzedine al Qassam, has carried out attacks on Israeli civilian and military targets. Yassin founded the movement in 1987.

An Israeli court convicted Yassin in 1989 of ordering Hamas members to kidnap and kill two Israeli soldiers.

He was sentenced to life in prison, but was freed in 1997 under the terms of a deal arranged by the late King Hussein of Jordan, who asked Israel to release Yassin in exchange for two Israeli Mossad agents, who attempted to assassinate Khalid Mishaal, a Hamas leader in Jordan.

The Palestinian Authority has placed Yassin under house arrest on a number of occasions since his release, most recently in December, 2001, after a series of terror attacks that killed 25 Israelis.

That detention triggered demonstrations and clashes with Palestinian police.

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