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Tuesday, 23 July, 2002, 01:44 GMT 02:44 UK
Profile: Salah Shahada
Palestinians search the remains of Shahada's house
Shahada's house was hit by a rocket
Salah Shahada was a founding member of Islamic militant group Hamas, and headed its military wing.

The armed faction - Izzedine al-Qassam - has carried out scores of suicide bombings and gun attacks on Israeli citizens in Israel and the West Bank since the early 1990s.


We do not fight Jews because they are Jews, but because they are occupying our lands

Salah Shahada
Israeli security sources say Shahada was responsible for hundreds of attacks against Israeli targets in the Gaza Strip.

Israeli officials say Shahada was also involved in the production of Qassam missiles, which Palestinian militants have fired at Jewish settlements in Gaza and across the border into Israel.

Shahada had been Number One on Israel's most wanted list since the beginning of the Palestinian intifada (uprising) nearly two years ago.

In an interview with an Islamic website in May, he spoke openly about Hamas' tactics.

"We take advantage of any security breakthrough, define the target, take some camera shots to decide whether the operation will be conducted or not," he said.

"We fight according to clear moral jihad principles," he went on.

"We do not fight Jews because they are Jews, but because they are occupying our lands."

Prospective successor

According to the Hamas website, Shahada was born to a refugee family in Gaza on 24 February, 1954, when the territory was under Egytian rule.

Salah Shahada
Shahada tops Israel's most wanted list
It says he excelled at school and went to university in Turkey, Russia and Egypt, before returning to Gaza, which had been conquered by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war.

Shahada was arrested by Israel a number of times for militant activity and spent time in solitary confinement in an Israeli jail.

The website says that he married in 1976 and had six girls - his wife and at least one of his daughters were reportedly killed in the attack on Gaza.

Shahada has been involved with Hamas since it was founded at the start of the first intifada, in 1987, and was a close aide to Hamas' ailing spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmad Yassin.

He was a growing religious authority and was considered to be a prospective successor to Sheikh Yassin.

Assassination attempts

Israel had already tried to kill Shahada on numerous occasions but the militant spent his time in hiding and escaped each attempt.

Last December, the Israeli army demolished a house belonging to Shahada in the Hamas stronghold of Beit Hanoun in the Gaza Strip, although he was not in the village at the time.

According to Israel's Haaretz newspaper, the Israel Defence Forces planned to capture or kill Shahada during a mooted offensive in the Gaza Strip in May this year, but the operation never took place.


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23 Jul 02 | Middle East
24 Jun 02 | Middle East
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22 Jul 02 | Middle East
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