Yassin's body was rushed to Gaza City's Shifa hospital, but obviously nothing could be done for him. At least six people died in the attack including at least two of Yassin's bodyguards. A further ten were wounded.
The Israeli army later admitted it had carried out the killings. Sharon has been saying he would step up operations to track down and kill Hamas leaders after a string of acts of individual terror had been carried out against Israeli targets, including one at a strategic port last week in which ten people were killed. According to the BBC, military sources in Israel had stated that the attack on Sheikh Yassin was personally organised and directed by Sharon himself!
This event shatters any hopes any might have had that some kind of compromise could be reached in the conflict between the Palestinian people and the Israeli state. Now we can only expect the killings on both sides to intensify.
As news of the killing spread, thousands of Palestinians, many in tears, poured onto the streets, denouncing Israel and calling for revenge, while fighters fired into the air. The demonstrations spread to other Palestinian areas. Clashes between Palestinian youth and Israeli soldiers were reported.
Palestinian Authority officials condemned the attack. "This is a crazy and very dangerous act. It opens the door wide to chaos. Yassin is known for his moderation and he was controlling Hamas and therefore this is a dangerous, cowardly act", said Prime Minister Ahmad Quraya.
Yassin, who was in his late '60s, had been confined to a wheelchair since an accident as a teenager that paralysed him. He was also partially blind. He had been sentenced by Israeli courts in 1989 to a life sentence for founding Hamas and inciting Palestinians to attack Israelis. But Israel released him in 1997, allegedly as a goodwill gesture to Jordan's King Hussein after an attempt to assassinate Hamas leader Khalid Mashal in Jordan failed.
This act alone exposes the real aims of Sharon. He has announced that he is prepared to withdraw from Gaza, although he then retracted and said he would still want to keep a presence in the north, and area he wishes to annex to Israel proper, and along the southern border of the Gaza strip with Egypt. This kind of "withdrawal" is not really a withdrawal. What Sharon has been trying to do is to get the Palestinians (or at least the "Palestinian Authority") to police themselves. In effect this means causing conflict within the Palestinians.
As we explained on Friday, in Sharon's plans point to a civil war in Gaza, "Sharon, and with him many others in the ruling circles, would love to leave Gaza, a small, extremely poor and the most overpopulated place on Earth. What he is concerned about is that the opposition, including Hamas that is very strong in Gaza, will rule the place once Israel pulls out."
Thus Sharon took the decision to strike at the heart of Hamas. Only a fool could believe that this is going to solve anything. Yassin will now become a martyr of Hamas. Instead of reducing the suicide bombings, this act will serve as a tremendous tool in the hands of the Hamas recruiting sergeants. Many more young people will be prepared to carry out attacks now. This is confirmed by what Abdul Aziz al Rantissi, a senior Hamas leader, said: "The battle is open and war between us and them is open. Today they killed an Islamic symbol."
There is a logic in all this. As we explained in another recent article Israel: Ashdod bombings: How reaction and individual terrorism feed off each other, the acts of individual terrorism on the part of the Palestinian bombers play into the hands of reactionaries such as Sharon, and vice versa acts of repression such as this recent killing of Yassin foment even more anger and thus a desire to "strike back" among the Palestinians, especially the dispossessed youth who are living in awful social conditions.
How many ordinary working Israelis must now be dreading what is to come next? Where will the next act of terror take place? That is what Sharon is counting on. He wishes to use the reaction of some of the Palestinian youth to step up repression against the Palestinian people as a whole. It also serves nicely to justify the wall they are building which cuts right through the living body of whole Palestinian communities.
This act is aimed at making sure that the status quo remains unchanged. The Palestinian people will continue to live in a prison house, without jobs, without decent water, etc., while the Israeli people have their minds concentrated on the fear of being bombed at any moment. In this way the real issues remain buried. On both sides life is becoming more difficult. While access to work for the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories is blocked, in Israel unemployment has been going up while the government has been attacking all the social reforms the workers had won over many decades. So long as this continues both peoples will see their living conditions worsen. That is why today's killing of Yassin is a bloody crime against the masses of both nations, the Palestinian and the Israeli.
The rulers of the US refused of course to condemn the terrorist act of the criminal gang ruling Israel. They just called for "restraint" on both sides! For Bush and co., state terror is legitimate. Sharon is just copying the methods of Bush on the international arena. He sees his moves against Hamas and other Palestinian organizations as part of the general "war on terror". We have seen how successful Bush' war on terror has been in Spain! Instead of curbing the terrorist threat we have seen the terrible killing that took place in Madrid, where ordinary working Spaniards had to pay the price for the imperialist adventures of its government.
The killing of Yassin merely adds petrol to the already burning fire. It opens up a nightmare scenario for both Israelis and Palestinians. This just proves once again that the way out of the bloody trap is an independent policy of the working class. In spite of all the wolves howling in the wind, in spite of all the so-called "practical" realists, we will not cease to explain that the Israeli people and the Palestinians must find a way of breaking this deadlock and this can only come through united struggle under the leadership of the working class to end the capitalist nightmare.
It is the duty of the labour movement organizations on both sides to step in and offer an alternative. The first thing that needs to be done to escape from this nightmare is to organize a struggle of the masses of both nations against both state terror and individual terror, like in Spain where the slogans that emerged on many of the demonstrations were against both the terrorists and the imperialists who had launched the war in Iraq.
The Communist Party in Israel can play a role in this. It has branches throughout Israel and is also present in the Trade Unions. It should take the initiative in raising inside the Israeli labour movement the need to demonstrate the workers' opposition to the methods of Sharon. The workers of Israel have nothing to gain from all this. What is needed is a mass demonstration under the demands: down with the terrorist government; bring down the government; put an end to the state terror and the individual terror. This can only be achieved by mobilising the masses. It was possible in Spain. It can be done in Israel also.