GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — Hundreds of thousands of
Palestinians chanting “revenge, revenge” flooded
Gaza’s streets yesterday to bury assassinated Hamas founder
Sheik Ahmed Yassin, as militants pledged unprecedented retaliation
— including threats against the United States.

From the AP
Palestinian mourners carry the coffin of Hamas spiritual leader Sheik Ahmed Yassin yesterday. Yassin was killed Sunday by Israeli helicopters. (AP PHOTO)

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and many world leaders
condemned yesterday’s killing of Yassin, the most prominent
Palestinian targeted by Israel in 3 1/2 years of fighting.

The Bush administration said it was “deeply
troubled” by the attack and that it had no advance
warning.

“We will get revenge for every drop of blood that
spilled,” said Salman Bdeiri, a Hamas supporter crying near
the mosque where Yassin prayed shortly before being killed by an
Israeli airstrike.

Israel sealed off the West Bank and Gaza, banning Palestinians
from Israel, and placed its security forces on high alert. Later
yesterday, Palestinian militants fired several homemade rockets and
mortar shells at Israeli targets in and near Gaza.

To the north, Hezbollah guerrillas fired an anti-tank missile at
Israeli troops along Israel’s border with Lebanon, and Israel
responded with an airstrike and artillery fire. No casualties were
reported.

Israel responded to the rocket attack by sending tanks into
northern Gaza near the town of Beit Hanoun. Israeli security
officials said the purpose of the operation was to prevent further
rocket fire.

The Yassin assassination was part of Prime Minister Ariel
Sharon’s effort to crush Hamas ahead of a possible Israeli
withdrawal from Gaza.

However, the killing was seen as a major gamble that could
galvanize the Palestinians behind Hamas. Rival Palestinian militant
groups immediately pledged solidarity with Hamas.

The missile strike dealt what could be the final blow to the
stalled U.S.-led “road map” peace plan.

It also angered Egypt and Jordan, moderate Arab states whose
tacit support Sharon needs for any unilateral withdrawal from
Gaza.

Since Yassin founded Hamas in 1987, the group has killed
hundreds of Israelis in scores of attacks. Hamas said it wants to
destroy the Jewish state and replace it with an Islamic one.

For the first time yesterday, Hamas threatened the United States
and suggested it might seek outside help in carrying out revenge
attacks.

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