Key facts: Yassin's lifelong battle against Israel

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The Independent Online

Key facts about Hamas founder and spiritual leader Sheik Ahmed Yassin, who was killed today in an Israeli helicopter missile strike as he left a mosque after morning prayers.

1934: Yassin born in what is today the coastal Israeli city of Ashkelon.

1948: Yassin family uprooted in creation of the state of Israel. Yassin grows up in Gaza refugee camps. At age 12 is paralysed in sporting accident. He later raises 11 children in three-room apartment in Gaza City slum.

1987: Yassin founds Hamas from ranks of the Egypt-based Muslim Brotherhood religious organisation. Hamas soon emerges as strongest political rival to mainstream Fatah movement of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. Hamas opposes peace talks with Israel. Carries out scores of suicide bombings, killing hundreds of Israelis, to thwart peace agreements negotiated by Arafat and his supporters.

1989: Yassin arrested in mass roundup of nearly 200 Hamas members. Sentenced to life in prison for ordering attacks on Israeli soldiers and on Palestinians suspected of collaborating with Israel. The quadriplegic Yassin suffers from various illnesses in jail, including chronic bronchitis and eye and ear infections.

1997: Israel frees Yassin in exchange for two agents from Israel's Mossad spy agency held by Jordan after botched attempt on life of another Hamas leader there.

2000: With breakdown of peace talks and outbreak of new Israeli-Palestinian fighting, Hamas and other militant groups step up campaign of suicide bombings, killing more than 450 people during fighting that has lasted more than three years.

2003: In response to suicide bombings, Israel intensifies targeted killings of militants and declares top Hamas leaders "marked for death."

September 6, 2003: Israeli air force drops 550-pound bomb on Gaza building where Hamas leaders had gathered Yassin escapes with a small wound on his hand.

January 30 2004: Yassin says Hamas making every effort to kidnap Israeli soldiers to use as bargaining chips for release of Palestinians in Israeli jails.

March 22, 2004: Helicopter launches three missiles, instantly killing Yassin as he leaves a mosque after morning prayers.

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