Hamas founder Hassan Shama dead at 76

Filed on June 12, 2011

GAZA CITY (GAZA STRIP) A founder of Hamas in the Gaza Strip died on Friday of a stroke after decades as an influential yet little-known figure at the helm of the Palestinian organisation. He was 76.

Muhammad Hassan Shama, revered by Hamas loyalists but nearly anonymous outside Gaza, was one of the eight founders of the Palestinian group in the 1980s. After his death, Hamas publicly announced on Friday for the first time that Shama had been the leader of the Shura Council, its top governing body.

The identity of the council’s members is a closely guarded secret because of fears they could be targeted by Israel. The founder and first leader of Hamas, Shaikh Ahmed Yassin, was killed by an Israeli air strike in 2004.

On Friday, Hamas released a statement mourning Shama’s death. Shama died, the group said, “after a long journey of jihad that he spent, along with Shaikh Ahmed Yassin, in teaching, educating and promoting the noble cause of Islam and jihad”.

Shama was born in 1935 in the city of Ashkelon, now in Israel, according to the Hamas statement. He became a refugee, along with hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, in the war that followed Israel’s creation in 1948.

He was arrested and jailed repeatedly by Israel

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