Ismail Abu Shanab

The assassination of Ismail Abu Shanab


21 August 2003 

Gaza City -- Five Israeli missiles incinerated Ismail Abu Shanab in Gaza City on 21 August 2003, killing one of the most powerful voices for peace in Hamas and destroying the ceasefire. Israeli helicopters struck the car carrying the third most senior Hamas leader. The missiles also buried a seven-week ceasefire already strained by Israeli killings of Islamic militants and retaliatory bombings, and threw the US-led road map to peace deeper into crisis. Hamas declared an immediate end to the truce and vowed a bloody revenge for the death of Abu Shanab, who was married with 11 children. 

Talat al-Rayes heard the first missile strike the car just outside his house in Gaza City. "There were three people trying to get out of the car. The doors were opening when three more rockets hit," he said. "I didn't know who was in the car until people dragged the bodies out and we saw it was Abu Shanab." The other two men who died in the white Volkswagen were Abu Shanab's bodyguards. Ariel Sharon could not have been in any doubt that killing Abu Shanab would wreck the ceasefire. He was widely seen as more pragmatic than fellow leaders. He broke a taboo within Hamas by recognising that there would have to be a Palestinian state alongside Israel, not in place of it. 

Abu Shanab's son, Hamza, said his father had wanted the ceasefire to continue. "He was trying to unite the Palestinian people and the ceasefire was uniting people." 

Tens of thousands filled the streets of Gaza City vowing to avenge Abu Shanab's death. Hamas militants fired rockets at Israeli towns, but no one was injured. Hamas officials and ordinary Palestinians believe that the Israelis had killed Abu Shanab because Sharon is not interested in peace with the Islamic groups and knew that the attack would draw the response that it did. 

Thousands of Palestinians have turned out in Gaza for the funeral of the Hamas leader killed in an Israeli air strike. The body of Abu Shanab and his two bodyguards were taken from the city's main hospital to the mosque surrounded by militiamen. Gaza City has been blocked off by Israeli forces, who for the second night running also entered the West Bank city of Jenin. As Abu Shanab's funeral procession travelled through the streets of Gaza, shots rang out along with voices calling for revenge against Israel. 

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