Palestinians: Hamas founder killed in airstrike

(CNN) — Hamas founder and spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin was killed in an apparent airstrike by Israeli forces Monday morning as he was being driven to mosque, Palestinian sources told CNN.

The wheelchair-bound Yassin founded Hamas in 1987, during the Palestinian intifada.

Islam / Islamism

Islamism is a totalitarian ideology adhered to by Muslim extremists (e.g. the Taliban, Hamas and Osama bin Laden). It is considered to be a distortion of Islam. Many Islamists engage in terrorism in pursuit of their goals.

Adherents of Islam are called “Muslims.” The term “Arab” describes an ethnic or cultural identity. Not all Arabs are Muslims, and not all Muslims are Arabs. The terms are not interchangeable.

Hamas is a fundamentalist Islamic organization whose military wing, Izzedine al Qassam, has carried out attacks on Israeli civilian and military targets. The U.S. State Department and Israel consider Hamas a terrorist organization.

In September, Yassin was lightly wounded in an Israeli missile strike in Gaza City. At the time he vowed “jihad will continue.”

An Israeli court convicted Yassin in 1989 of ordering Hamas members to kidnap and kill two Israeli soldiers.

He was sentenced to life in prison, but was freed in 1997 under the terms of a deal arranged by the late King Hussein of Jordan, who asked Israel to release Yassin in exchange for two Israeli Mossad agents, who attempted to assassinate Khalid Mishaal, a Hamas leader in Jordan.

The Palestinian Authority has placed Yassin under house arrest on a number of occasions since his release, most recently in December, 2001, after a series of terror attacks that killed 25 Israelis.

That detention triggered demonstrations and clashes with Palestinian police.

Yassin was born in 1938 in what was then the British mandate of Palestine. His family became refugees in Gaza during the violence that followed Israel’s creation in 1948.

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