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Date posted: March 22, 2004
By MIFTAH

The Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy (MIFTAH) emphatically condemns Israelís cold blooded murder of Sheikh Ahmad Yassin as an act of insanity and a dangerous escalation.

At daybreak, Israeli helicopters fired three missiles aimed at Sheikh Ahmad Yassin, the founder and spiritual leader of the Islamic Movement, Hamas, instantly killing him and nine other Palestinians as they were coming out of morning prayers. 17 Palestinians sustained serious injuries, among them Yassinís son.

This latest extra-judicial killing, illegal under international law, by Israel was a calculated measure aimed at a quadriplegic wheelchair-bound elderly man. The operation was approved by the highest echelons in the Israeli government and was directly supervised by Prime Minister Sharon.

Four more Palestinians were killed in Gaza later Monday, including an 11-year-old boy, and a 22-year-old journalist, Mohammad Abu Haleimeh, who was shot dead by Israeli troops in Nablus.

Rage over Yassinís death reverberated across the Middle East. Tens of thousands of mourners poured into the streets of Gaza City for the funeral procession, and demonstrations have been taking place across the occupied Palestinian territory. In Egypt, about 7,000 students gathered in a spontaneous demonstration in Cairo's Al-Azhar University. Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat declared three days of mourning.

Since announcing his plans for ďunilateral disengagement,Ē Sharon has stepped up military operations in Gaza. 20 Palestinians have been killed in the last 24 hours. Sharon has always resorted to escalating the conflict whenever a chance for peaceful dialogue emerged. Sharonís orders to step up military operations come as no surprise, since this is an established tactic he has often used to relieve internal criticism of his plans and policies.

Israelís continued occupation has produced an abnormal way of life and is perpetuating the cycle of violence, as Palestinians are denied any political or legal recourse.

MIFTAH is appalled by this cold-blooded execution and Israelís ongoing policies of assassination and lawlessness. The assault on Sheikh Ahmad Yassin is an assault on all Palestinians and reveals an unrestrained, shortsighted and irresponsible Israeli government deliberately provoking a volatile situation. This attack undermines the efforts of all those working for peace. Sharon and his extremist government must be held accountable for their unacceptable and unjustified transgressions.

While worldwide condemnation of this unlawful act was swift, Palestinians are dismayed by the international communityís inaction vis-ŗ-vis Israelís policies of military assaults, economic strangulation, assassination, and even forced transfer. MIFTAH urges immediate and effective intervention on the ground to contain the situation and avoid delving the entire region into chaos.

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