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Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi
Dr. Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi (in the Arabic script عبدالعزيز الرنتيسي) (October 23, 1947 - April 17, 2004) was the co-founder of the Palestinian Islamist paramilitary and political organization Hamas. He was considered a terrorist by the United States and the European Union for advocating suicide bombing of civilians. The Israeli government considered him a terrorist for organizing attacks against Israelis, both civilians and soldiers. He was Hamas's political leader and spokesman in the Gaza Strip following the Israeli assassination of Hamas spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmad Yassin, although the separation between the political and military wing of Hamas is said by some to be informal. Like most Hamas members, Rantissi opposed any compromise with Israel and called for the 'liberation' of the entire region of Palestine (including the whole of the State of Israel) through jihad against the Jewish state. In addition, Rantissi was the most vocal of Hamas leaders to deny the Holocaust, commenting that the Holocaust never occurred as described by Western historians and that Zionists at one time supported and funded Nazi activities. 
Early life and Origins of Hamas
Rantissi was born in Yubna, a village close to modern Yavne emptied in 1948, near Jaffa. Following the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, his family fled to the Gaza Strip. He studied pediatric medicine in Egypt for nine years and was a certified physician, although he did not have a practice. In 1976 he returned to Gaza, a convinced member of the Muslim Brotherhood, out of which Hamas grew.
In 1987, four residents of the Jabalya refugee camp in Gaza were killed in a traffic accident. According to Rantissi, he joined with Sheikh Ahmad Yassin, 'Abdel Fattah Dukhan, Mohammed Shama', Dr. Ibrahim al-Yazour, Issa al-Najjar, and Salah Shehadeh and instructed people to exit the mosques chanting Allahu Akbar ("God is great"). This was the start of the first intifada, according to Rantissi, under whose leadership the organization that would subsequently be known as Hamas was formed later that year. The rival PLO later joined forces with them, and a united leadership was formed.
Expulsion and Return
In December 1992, Rantissi was expelled to southern Lebanon, as part of the expulsion of 416 Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad operatives, and emerged as the general spokesman of the expellees. Upon his return in 1993, he was arrested, but later released. He was also detained many times over longer periods by the Palestinian Authority, for his criticism of the PA and of Arafat, most recently in mid-1999. Such tactics did not quiet his voice. When Rantissi returned to his public position as "right hand" to Yassin, he remained one of the main opponents to any cease-fire and cessation of attacks inside Israel. During talks among the Hamas leadership both in Gaza and abroad and in its constant contact with the PA regarding terror activity, Rantissi, together with Ibrahim Macadma , controlled the tone of the Hamas leadership.
After the triumphant return of Sheikh Yassin to the Gaza Strip in October 1997, after a prisoner exchange following a foiled Israeli assassination attempt on a Hamas activist in Jordan, he worked closely with the old sheikh to restore hierarchic command and to reinforce cadre uniformity within a reorganized Hamas. Following the elimination of Salah Shehadeh and Ibrahim Macadma, he became the political head and also acclaimed spiritual leader of Hamas, remaining its principal spokesman. In these multiple roles, Rantissi directed, instructed and determined policy - including terrorist activity, according to interrogation of Hamas operatives. Some of his public statements were reported to serve as instructions for terrorists to carry out attacks.
In moments of tension, when diplomacy was strained to the utmost, Rantissi unfailingly presented a strident voice. He took the opportunity of a meeting between U.S. Congressman Smith and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, January 28, 1998, to announce through Reuters "there is just one option in front of the Palestinians which is to return to the uprising and armed struggle against the [Israeli] occupation." Within hours of the Israeli withdrawal from Bethlehem, August 19, 2002, Rantissi was quoted in the Manchester Guardian as saying Hamas' "rifles will remain directed against the Zionist enemy".
Leadership of Hamas spent in Hiding
Rantisi's four week tenure as leader of Hamas was spent in hiding, once the public funeral for Ahmed Yassin, attended by large crowds, ended. On the day of his death, April 17, he came out of hiding to visit his family in Gaza City, arriving before dawn and staying till the evening. Shortly after he left the house he was killed. 
On January 26, 2004, Rantissi offered "a 10-year truce in return for withdrawal and the establishment of a state". There had earlier been some rumored talks within Hamas about doing this but this time Rantassi announced that "the movement has taken a decision on this".
On March 27, 2004, Rantissi addressed 5,000 supporters in Gaza. He declared US president George W. Bush to be an "enemy of Muslims". "America declared war against God. Sharon declared war against God and God declared war against America, Bush and Sharon. The war of God continues against them and I can see the victory coming up from the land of Palestine by the hand of Hamas." CNN: New Hamas leader: Bush is 'enemy of Muslims'
Death by Missile
On April 17, 2004, Rantissi was assassinated by the Israeli Defense Forces with missiles fired at his car. The manner of death was just as he would have preferred; he previously said, "It's death whether by killing or by cancer; it's the same thing. Nothing will change if it's an Apache (helicopter) or cardiac arrest. But I prefer to be killed by Apache." Two others, one a bodyguard, were also killed in the attack. Israeli army radio stated that this was the first opportunity to target Rantissi, without collateral damage, since he took the leadership of Hamas, saying he had spent the last few weeks surrounding himself with children. 
Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Jonathan Peled said:
- "Israel...today struck a mastermind of terrorism, with blood on his hands. As long as the Palestinian Authority does not lift a finger and fight terrorism, Israel will continue to have to do so itself."
British Foreign Minister Jack Straw condemned the action:
- "The British government has made it repeatedly clear that so-called 'targeted assassinations' of this kind are unlawful, unjustified and counter-productive."
United States White House spokesman, Scott McClellan said:
- "The United States strongly urges Israel to consider carefully the consequences of its actions..."
- "As we have repeatedly made clear, Israel has the right to defend itself from terrorist attacks."
"All the land of Palestine is a part of the Islamic faith and the Caliph Omar bin al-Khattab declared it for all Muslims. Therefore, no individual or group has the right to sell it or give it up." (Kul al-Arab, January 9, 1998)
"We know Bush is the enemy of God, the enemy of Islam and the enemy of the Moslem people. America has declared war against God, [Israeli Prime Minister] Sharon declared war against God, and God has declared war against America, Bush and Sharon"
- The American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise - The Jewish Virtual Library - Abd al-Aziz Rantissi (biography and quotes)
- Kul al-Arab (newspaper) interview with Rantissi, January 9, 1998 (the source for some of the information in this article)
- Hamas Leader Rantisi: The Holocaust - The Greatest of Lies Funded by the Zionists
- Top Hamas leader killed in Israeli raid (Reuters)
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