Calling for Palestinian unity and revenge against Israel, tens of thousands of mourners turned out Saturday to bury Yehiya Ayash, the Hamas Islamic movement’s mastermind of suicide bombings who was slain in a covert operation widely attributed to Israeli agents.
Thousands more Palestinians poured into the streets of at least four West Bank towns to burn Israeli flags and warn Prime Minister Shimon Peres that they would avenge the death of their “martyr.”
“Peres, don’t get too happy, we are all Yehiya Ayash,” they shouted in Gaza. “Prepare the body bags.”
Israel braced for revenge attacks, putting its forces on high alert, setting up roadblocks around the country and barring its citizens from entering Palestinian-controlled areas.
Israel also imposed an indefinite closure on the Gaza Strip and West Bank, preventing the more than 50,000 Palestinians who work in Israel from going to their jobs today.
Ayash, dubbed “The Engineer,” whose explosives took the lives of scores of Israelis in the last two years, was killed Friday by a booby-trapped cellular telephone that would have impressed the master bomb-maker himself with its ingenuity. He reportedly died instantly when the phone packed with 50 grams of explosives blew up the right side of his head.
Israeli radio and television, citing Palestinian sources, said that the telephone had been given to Ayash three days earlier by Osama Hammad, the son of the sheik who owns the apartment where Ayash was staying. Hammad has since disappeared from Gaza, and Palestinians believe he is in Israel.