JERUSALEM (Oct. 16)
The founder and leader of the Islamic fundamentalist group Hamas was sentenced to life imprisonment plus 15 years Wednesday by a military court in Gaza, for assorted terrorist acts against Israel and the murder of Arabs suspected of collaboration.
Sheik Ahmed Yassin, a 56-year-old man who uses a wheelchair, admitted to the charges under a plea-bargain agreement that absolved him of a role in the 1989 murder of Israel Defense Force soldiers Avi Sasportas and Ilan Sa’adon.
Yassin was convicted of founding the Islamic fundamentalist group in the Gaza Strip shortly after the start of the intifada in 1987. Under his leadership, Hamas, which means “zeal,” swiftly grew into the most violent and uncompromising component of the Palestinian uprising.
Although the prosecution agreed not to hold Yassin personally responsible for the series of murders of suspected collaborators, it nevertheless pressed charges of possession of firearms and dissemination of inflammatory leaflets that led to the murders.
Yassin accepted the sentence calmly. A charismatic figure, he has continued to exert a profound influence on Gaza Strip residents even while in jail. At his bidding, the territory was paralyzed by a general strike Wednesday to protest his sentencing.