Hamas leader Rantisi killed in IAF strike in Gaza City


17/04/2004 Hamas leader Abdel Aziz Rantisi was killed in an Israeli helicopter missile strike on his car Saturday evening. Two other people were killed in the strike, witnesses said. A burned, destroyed car was left on the road near Rantisi’s house and one badly burned body was removed from the car by paramedics. Witnesses said there were three people in the car at the time. The dead included Akram Nassar, 35, Rantisi’s personal bodyguard and his son Mohammed, 27, hospital officials said. Rantisi’s wife was in the car, but her condition and location was not known, hospital sources and Hamas said. Rantisi was taken to Gaza’s Shifa Hospital in critical condition, his body pocked with bloody wounds, and rushed into emergency surgery, but he died five minutes after arriving at the hospital. The explosion occurred a block from Rantisi’s house in the Sheik Radwan neighborhood of Gaza City, about 100 meters from where Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin was buried after Israel assassinated him last month. Palestinians ran into the street following the strike and called for revenge. The attack comes hours after a Border Policeman was killed and three other Israelis were wounded in a suicide bombing at the Erez Crossing in Gaza, which Hamas jointly claimed with Fatah. Rantisi was the newly-appointed head of the militant group in Gaza, following Yassin’s assassination. He one of the most hard-line members of the militant movement, which rejects all compromise with Israel and calls for the destruction of the state. Israel had previously tried to kill Rantisi June 10 when hree Apache helicopters fired at least seven missiles toward Rantisi’s car in a crowded Gaza thoroughfare, reducing his vehicle to a scorched heap of metal. Rantisi escaped with a wound to the right leg. Two Palestinian bystanders were killed. During the mourning period for Yassin, Rantisi was defiant about Israel’s threats against him. “We will all die one day. Nothing will change. If by Apache or by cardiac arrest, I prefer Apache,” he said. Rantisi was born in 1947 in the village of Yavna near the southern coastal city of Ashkelon. During the War of Independence his family fled their home and settled in the Khan Yunis refugee camp. Rantisi, who attended school at the refugee camp, had 11 sisters and brothers. After completing his high school studies, he went on to study medicine in Egypt. Rantisi returned to the Gaza Strip during the 1970’s and worked as a pediatrician at the Naser Hospital in Khan Yunis. The IDF first arrested Rantisi in 1983, for attempting to organize a boycott of tax payments to the Israeli civil administration authorities. He was arrested a second time in 1988, and was jailed for two and a half years for his involvement with the recently formed Hamas movement. Rantisi was put under administrative arrest in 1990, and was included in the 400 Hamas members who were deported to Lebanon in December of 1992. Upon his return to the strip, Rantisi was arrested numerous times by the Palestinian Authority. Recent attempts to arrest him were foiled by armed Hamas activists.