Freed Hamas founder returns to Gaza
October 6, 1997
Web posted at: 10:47 a.m. EDT (1447 GMT)
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (CNN) -- Palestinians on Monday
celebrated the triumphant return of Hamas founder Sheik
Ahmed Yassin, hanging banners welcoming "the sheik of the
Yassin was freed by Israel last Wednesday from a life jail
sentence imposed in 1989 for ordering attacks on Israelis.
The release of the 61-year-old quadraplegic reportedly was
part of a deal under which Jordan would release two agents
from Mossad, the Israeli secret service, captured in a failed
assassination attempt on another Hamas leader in Amman.
Twenty-two Palestinian prisoners -- including Hamas activists
accused of attacks on Israelis -- also were expected to be
freed by Israel as part of the swap, Israeli media reported.
|Gaza Strip prepares for the homecoming
Correspondent Jerrold Kessel reports
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A PLO official said Yassin flew directly from
Jordan by helicopter and was to address Palestinians at Gaza City's
Yarmouk sports stadium -- the scene three years ago of
President Yasser Arafat's triumphant return to limited
In preparation for Yassin's return, Palestinian youths
whitewashed the wall of his family's home in the dusty Sabra
district of Gaza City.
They put up posters of the Hamas leader and strung up a
banner reading: "In the name of the Hamas we welcome the
sheik of the intifada" -- the 1987-93 uprising against
"Congratulations from the Izz el-Deen al-Qassam Brigades to
the founder of Hamas," read one slogan from the movement's
armed wing, responsible for suicide attacks on Israelis.
Yassin's stand on Israel unclear
In prison, Yassin moderated his positions and as a free man
could influence his followers to end attacks against Israeli
civilians, as he has counseled from jail.
However, the Lebanese newspaper an-Nahar on Monday quoted him
as saying he was ready to resume his anti-Israeli
activities upon return to Gaza, even if it meant going back to
"I will do what my people ask. If they (the Israelis) arrest
me ... I am ready to go back to prison again," Yassin said.
But the newspaper also reported, without direct quotations,
that Yassin said he would accept an interim truce during
which steps would be taken to stop violence and Hamas would
join Arafat's Palestinian Authority in contacts with Israel
and the United States.
Sources told CNN that on September 23, two days before the
attack on Hamas political leader Khalid Mashaal in Amman,
Hamas approached the Israeli government with an offer to halt
terror attacks in Israel for 10 years in exchange for a role
Israeli and Hamas officials have denied that such an offer
Also on Monday, U.S. Mideast peace negotiator Dennis Ross was
to arrive in the region to preside over a resumption of
Palestinian-Israeli talks, which were suspended in March
after Israel started building homes for Jews in a disputed
area of Jerusalem.
Jerusalem Bureau Chief Walter Rodgers and Correspondent
Jerrold Kessel contributed to this report.