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Sheikh Ahmed Ismail Hassan Yassin (1937 – 22 March 2004) was a Palestinian imam and politician.
He was a founder of Hamas, an Islamist Palestinian paramilitary organization and political party.
Yassin also served as the spiritual leader of the organization.
Hamas gained approval in Palestinian society by establishing charitable bodies to fund hospitals, education systems, libraries and other services, but it has also claimed responsibility for a number of suicide attacks targeting Israeli civilians, and was designated as a terrorist organization by the European Union, Israel, Japan, Canada, and the United States.Yassin, a quadriplegic who was nearly blind, had used a wheelchair since a sporting accident at the age of 12.
He was killed when an Israeli helicopter gunship fired a missile at him as he was being wheeled from early morning prayers.
His killing, in an attack that claimed the lives of both his bodyguards and nine bystanders, was internationally condemned.
Two hundred thousand Palestinians attended his funeral procession.
Ahmed Yassin was born in al-Jura, a small village near the city of Ashkelon, in the British Mandate of Palestine. His date of birth is not known for certain: according to his Palestinian passport, he was born on 1 January 1929, but he claimed to have actually been born in 1937. His father, Abdullah Yassin, died when he was three years old. Afterward, he became known in his neighborhood as Ahmad Sa'ada after his mother Sa'ada al-Habeel. This was to differentiate him from the children of his father's other three wives. Together, Yassin had four brothers and two sisters. He and his entire family fled to Gaza, settling in al-Shati Camp after his village was ethnically cleansed by the Israel Defense Forces during the 1948 Arab–Israeli War.
Yassin came to Gaza as a refugee. When he was 12, he sustained a severe spinal injury while wrestling his friend Abdullah al-Khatib. His neck was kept in plaster for 45 days. The damage to his spinal cord rendered him a quadraplegic for the rest of his life. Fearing a rift between his family and al-Khatib's, Yassin initially told his family that he sustained his injuries while playing leapfrog during a sports lesson with his school friends on the beach.
Although Yassin applied and attended Al-Azhar University in Cairo, he was unable to pursue his studies there due to his deteriorating health. He was forced to be educated at home where he read widely, particularly on philosophy and on religion, politics, sociology, and economics. His followers believe that his worldly knowledge made him "one of the best speakers in the Gaza Strip." During this time, he began delivering weekly sermons after Friday prayers, drawing large crowds of people.
After years of unemployment, he got a post as an Arabic language teacher at an elementary school in Rimal, Gaza. Headmaster Mohammad al-Shawa initially had reservations about Yassin, concerning the reception he would receive from the pupils due to his disability. However, according to al-Shawa, Yassin handled them well and his popularity grew, especially among the more scholarly children. His teaching methods reportedly provoked mixed reactions among parents because he encouraged his students to attend the mosque an additional two times a week. Having a regular job gave Yassin financial stability, and he married one of his relatives Halima Yassin in 1960 at the age of 22. The couple had eleven children.