Middle East & Africa
New Hamas Chief Calls for Retaliation for Israel
Al-Rantissi Succeeds Slain Hamas Leader in Gaza
By Yasser AbuMoailek
Middle East Correspondent
Gaza City, March 25, 2004 — Dr. Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi was named last night as acting leader of Hamas movement, following the assassination of the former spiritual leader and founder, Sheikh Ahmad Yassin. Al-Rantissi, who is also known for its hard-line attitude towards the Israeli Palestinian conflict, was publicly named in the large pavilion erected by Hamas supporters to accept condolences for Sheikh Yassin. In a speech he gave following the announcement of his naming, al-Rantissi called on the military wing of the movement, Ezzeddin al-Qassam Brigades, to strike at the Israelis "everywhere, anytime and with all means possible." "Internal elections have been made inside the movement (Hamas) during the time of Sheikh Yassin, and he was elected as leader of the movement and I as his deputy. So, according to the regulations, I succeeded him," al-Rantissi told the crowd of reporters who rushed to him after the announcement of his succession. Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi also added that he would lead Hamas only in Gaza Strip, and that the head of the politburo of the movement, Khaled Mash'al, would be the leader of the entire movement. "I am the leader of Hamas in Gaza Strip, and we are all under the command of Khaled Masha'l, but there have been a few misinterpreted remarks made by several senior members of the movement, which may have led to the confusion in the media about the analysis of my election."
|Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi, the newly elected leader of Hamas in Gaza Strip, sits in the mourning pavilion of founder and spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmad Yassin. Courtesy AP|
On his part, Ismail Haniya, a leading figure in Hamas and bureau chief of the late Sheikh Yassin, confirmed the naming of al-Rantissi and that there have been no confusion inside the movement about this matter, pointing out that the symbolic importance of Sheikh Yassin as a founder and a spiritual inspiration to the movement have given an iconic mark to his leadership. "There is a politburo to the movement run by Khaled Mash'al and other brothers from the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and al-Rantissi will handle Hamas's affairs in Gaza Strip," Haniya said. Asked about his first task in leading Hamas, al-Rantissi declared that he would call on all the Palestinian national and Islamic factions to unite under one banner and stand in one line to defend the Palestinian territories. He also threatened the Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon of elimination as a retaliation to the assassination of Sheikh Yassin. The Israeli forces have made a failed attempt on al-Rantissi's life on June 10, 2003, from which he survived with minor injuries, but his son suffered critical wounds. He was deported by Israel to the Lebanese borders in 1992 and is considered one of the "hawks" of Hamas by many people.
|Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi is surrounded by Hamas supporters following the announcement of his succession to the slain founder and spiritual leader, Sheikh Ahmad Yassin. |
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Yasser AbuMoailek, a journalist and feature writer working for the International Press Center in Gaza Strip. He contributes to many circulations inlcuding the Seoul Times, as well as monitoring the situation in the Middle East, especially the Palestinian territories.