Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi

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Image:Dr,Aziz.jpg Dr. Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi (in the Arabic script عبدالعزيز الرنتيسي) (October 23, 1947April 17, 2004) was the co-founder of the Palestinian paramilitary organization Hamas. He was Hamas's political leader and spokesman in the Gaza Strip following the Israeli assassination of Hamas spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmad Yassin. Like most Hamas members, Rantissi opposed any compromise with Israel and called for the liberation of the entire region of Palestine (including the whole of the State of Israel) through jihad against the Jewish state. In addition, Rantissi was the most vocal of Hamas leaders to deny the Holocaust, commenting that the Holocaust never occurred as described by Western historians and that Zionists at one time supported and funded Nazi activities. [1]

He was considered a terrorist by the United States and the European Union for advocating suicide bombing of civilians. The Israeli government considers the separation between the political and military wings of Hamas as informal and targeted Rantissi as a terrorist for advocating attacks against Israelis.


Personal life

Rantissi was born in Yubna near Jaffa. Following the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, his family fled to the Gaza Strip. He studied pediatric medicine in Egypt for nine years and was a certified physician, although he did not have a practice. In 1976 he returned to Gaza, a convinced member of the Muslim Brotherhood, to practice medicine.

Rantissi went on to father six children.

Origins of Hamas

In 1987, four children of the Jabalya refugee camp in the Israeli-Occupied Gaza Strip were run over by an Israeli truck. According to Rantissi, he joined with Sheikh Ahmad Yassin, 'Abdel Fattah Dukhan, Mohammed Shama', Dr. Ibrahim al-Yazour, Issa al-Najjar, and Salah Shehadeh and instructed people to exit the mosques chanting Allahu Akbar ("God is great"). This was the start of the first intifada, according to Rantissi, under whose leadership the organization that would subsequently be known as Hamas was formed later that year. The intifada was the Arabic name for the "uprising" against the Israeli occupation. The rival PLO later joined forces with them, and a united leadership was formed.

Expulsion and return

In December 1992, Rantissi was deported to southern Lebanon, as part of the expulsion of 416 Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad operatives, and emerged as the general spokesman of the expellees. Upon his return in 1993, he was arrested, but later released. He was also detained many times over longer periods by the Palestinian Authority, for his criticism of the PA and of Arafat, most recently in mid-1999. Such tactics did not quiet his voice. When Rantissi returned to his public position as "right hand" to Yassin, he remained one of the main opponents to any cease-fire and cessation of attacks inside Israel. During talks among the Hamas leadership both in Gaza and abroad and in its constant contact with the PA regarding terror activity, Rantissi, together with Ibrahim Macadma, controlled the tone of the Hamas leadership.

After the triumphant return of Sheikh Yassin to the Gaza Strip in October 1997, after a prisoner exchange following a foiled Israeli targeted interception attempt on a Hamas activist in Jordan, he worked closely with the old sheikh to restore hierarchic command and to reinforce cadre uniformity within a reorganized Hamas. Following the assassination of Salah Shehadeh and Ibrahim Macadma, he became the political head and also acclaimed spiritual leader of Hamas, remaining its principal spokesman.

Leadership of Hamas spent in hiding

Rantisi's four week tenure as leader of Hamas was spent in hiding, once the public funeral for Ahmed Yassin, attended by large crowds, ended. On the day of his death, April 17, he came out of hiding to visit his family in Gaza City, arriving before dawn and staying till the evening. Shortly after he left the house he was killed. [2]

Selected timeline

On June 6, 2003, Rantissi broke off discussions with PA Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, who had called for an end to "armed resistance".

On June 10, 2003, Rantissi survived an Israeli helicopter attack on a car in which he was travelling. He was lightly wounded in the attack, which killed two civilians and wounded around thirty more, including 15 children under the age of 12.

On January 26, 2004, Rantissi offered "a 10-year truce in return for withdrawal and the establishment of a state". There had earlier been some rumored talks within Hamas about doing this but this time Rantassi announced that "the movement has taken a decision on this".

On March 23, 2004, Rantissi was named leader of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, following the killing of Yassin by Israeli forces. Reuters: Rantissi named Hamas chief for Gaza - official

On March 27, 2004, Rantissi addressed 5,000 supporters in Gaza. He declared US president George W. Bush to be an "enemy of Muslims". "America declared war against God. Sharon declared war against God and God declared war against America, Bush and Sharon. The war of God continues against them and I can see the victory coming up from the land of Palestine by the hand of Hamas." CNN: New Hamas leader: Bush is 'enemy of Muslims'

Death by missile

On April 17, 2004, Rantissi was killed by the Israeli Army with missiles fired at his car. The manner of death was just as he claimed he would have preferred; he previously said, "It's death whether by killing or by cancer; it's the same thing. Nothing will change if it's an Apache (helicopter) or cardiac arrest. But I prefer to be killed by Apache." Two others, one a bodyguard named Akram Nassar and the other Rantissi's 27-year-old son Mohammed, were also killed in the attack, and four bystanders wounded. Israeli army radio stated that this was the first opportunity to target Rantissi, without significant collateral damage, since he took the leadership of Hamas, noting that he had surrounded himself with human shields since the assassination of Yassin. [3]

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Jonathan Peled said:

"Israel...today struck a mastermind of terrorism, with blood on his hands. As long as the Palestinian Authority does not lift a finger and fight terrorism, Israel will continue to have to do so itself."

British Foreign Minister Jack Straw condemned the action:

"The British government has made it repeatedly clear that so-called 'targeted assassinations' of this kind are unlawful, unjustified and counter-productive."

United States White House spokesman, Scott McClellan said:

"The United States strongly urges Israel to consider carefully the consequences of its actions..."
"As we have repeatedly made clear, Israel has the right to defend itself from terrorist attacks."


"The Israelis will not know security. We will fight them until the liberation of Palestine, the whole of Palestine." (The New York Times, March 22, 2003)

"All the land of Palestine is a part of the Islamic faith and the Caliph Omar bin al-Khattab declared it for all Muslims. Therefore, no individual or group has the right to sell it or give it up." (Kul al-Arab, January 9, 1998)

"If Israel was established in Britain, would you accept compromise?", to a British journalist, June 1993.

"We know Bush is the enemy of God, the enemy of Islam and the enemy of the Moslem people. America has declared war against God, [Israeli Prime Minister] Sharon declared war against God, and God has declared war against America, Bush and Sharon."

External links

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