At sundown in Gaza, Palestinian women gather to mourn slain Hamas leader Sheik Ahmed Yassin. Outside his home crowds vow revenge against Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. “We will kill him, kill the man who is called Sharon.”
The women say they are prepared to carry out suicide attacks against Israelis and are raising their children to become martyrs.
And Wednesday it was a child sent to launch the first suicide bomb attack since Yassin’s death. A 14-year-old boy was found wearing explosives strapped inside a gray vest at a West Bank checkpoint. The Israel army defused the bomb by remote control.
Hamas, which has carried out 52 suicide bombings against Israel in the last three years, is operating now under a new leader. His name is Abdel-Aziz al-Rantissi. He’s a pediatrician, known for being more militant than Sheik Yassin. Israeli forces have already tried to kill him once.
Wednesday, Rantissi surrounded himself with supporters at an official mourning for Yassin, daring Israelis to risk an assassination attempt at a public gathering.
Rantissi said vengeance for Yassin’s death will be carried out by Hamas’ military wing and all options are on the table, including targeting Sharon. “The gate is open, in front of the military wing to do anything,” he said.
Will Americans be targeted? “Americans are not our enemy. They will not be targeted,” said Rantissi.
While Hamas is a terrorist organization to much of the world, here in the Gaza refugee camps, where 90 percent live below the poverty line, Hamas is everything — running every school, hospital and charity.
Wednesday night is the end of official mourning for Sheik Yassin and with loyalty to Hamas’ cause so intense, these men and these women are ready to give their lives.