Yassin Instilled Passion for Glory of 'Martyrdom'
Whenever Sheik Ahmed Yassin was asked if he feared assassination at Israel’s hands — an often-posed query in his final months, as one lieutenant after another was targeted for fiery death by Israeli helicopter gunships — the white-scarved cleric would fix his questioner with a piercing gaze while a half-smile played across his waxy features. “All my life,” he would declare in his high-pitched voice, “I have dreamed of martyrdom.” In killing the spiritual leader of the Islamic Resistance Movement, known as Hamas, Israel may have granted him his greatest wish — and made him the ultimate symbol of the violently self-immolating ideology he propounded. Even before the outbreak of the Palestinians’ 42-month-old intifada, or uprising, Hamas was at the forefront of the campaign of suicide bombings that has haunted Israeli cities and towns. With grim regularity, members of its military wing, the Izzidin al-Qassam, murmured their final prayers, strapped on explosives belts and blew themselves up in crowded cafes and buses. The frail and ailing Yassin, although himself the picture of physical powerlessness, probably did more than any other figure to sear into the consciousness of these young Palestinians the notion that a death sought in order to inflict a bloody blow upon a hated enemy was a glorious one. Full Story