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Hamas marks anniversary of founder's assassination

Hamas remains 'committed to the ideas of its founder' Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, whom Israel assassinated 11 years ago
Leading Hamas member Ismail Haniyeh speaks during a programme in Gaza City on 22 March, 2015, to mark 11th anniversary of the Israeli assassination of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin (AA)

The Palestinian movement Hamas on Sunday marked the 11th anniversary of the Israeli assassination of its founder and spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin.

Hamas organised several activities to mark the occasion, most prominently the launch of the movement's official website from inside the residence of the late leader in Gaza City.

"Our movement remains committed to the ideas of its founder, which preached openness towards the Arab and Islamic spheres," leading Hamas member Ismail Haniyeh said at a speech marking the occasion.

Sheikh Yassin and a group of Muslim Brotherhood leaders in the Gaza Strip formed Hamas in 1987 during the first Intifada, or Palestinian uprising, against the Israeli occupation.

The movement's influence spread in the West Bank and Gaza due to its strong involvement in resisting the Israeli occupation.

The Hamas founder was arrested by Israel in 1983 on charges of weapons possession, founding a secret armed group and calling for the elimination of the state of Israel, sentencing him to 13 years in prison.

Sheikh Yassin was released two years later in a prisoner exchange deal between Israel and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

He was arrested again in 1989 and condemned to life in prison and an additional 15-year prison sentence for inciting the capture and killing of Israeli soldiers and for founding Hamas.

In 1997, the Hamas leader was once again released in another prisoner exchange deal between Israel and Jordan, after the failed assassination attempt of Hamas political bureau chief Khaled Meshaal in Jordanian capital Amman.

Sheikh Yassin, who had been confined to a wheelchair since the age of 12, was killed on 22 March, 2004, when an Israeli aircraft struck his car while he was returning from a Gaza City mosque after the dawn prayers.

Even after 11 years have lapsed since his passing, Sheikh Yassin's family has kept his belongings in place and transformed his residence into a museum after moving to live in a nearby house.

Dozens of Palestinian, Arab and Islamic delegations have visited Sheikh Yassin's residence over the past years, including Meshaal, who visited the Gaza Strip in late 2012.

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