GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip – Hamas founder Sheik Ahmed Yassin (search) barely escaped serious injury early Saturday when a barrage of missiles were fired at an apartment building he had entered only moments before.
Yassin only suffered injuries to his hand in the early morning Israeli-led warplane attack that left 15 others wounded, according to hospital officials. Over the last three weeks, similar attacks have killed 12 Hamas (search) members, along with five bystanders, and left scores of others injured.
"I just contacted my father, and he told me that God protected his life and the life of the Sheik," said Abdelsalam Hanieh, the 22-year-old son of an aide traveling with Yassin at the time of the attack. "The Zionists have failed in this crime and he and the Sheik are in a safer place."
After the blast, Yassin, a quadriplegic, was carried out the building by his bodyguards, as large crowds began to assemble around the building. His distinctive brown Land Rover, driven by his son, could be seen parked outside.
Witnesses said at least one of the missiles tore a large hole in the ceiling of the third-floor apartment. A neighbor, Nasser Zaide, ran to his balcony after the explosion rocked the street and watched Yassin being rushed out of the building. "One missile had come through the ceiling and had destroyed the third floor," he said.
A grocer, Raouf Abu Khaled, 52, helped carry the wounded to ambulances.
"I was sitting outside my shop when I saw the jeep of the sheik coming from the side of the street, and five minutes later there was a huge explosion."
Israel's military has up-to-the-minute intelligence on the movement of Palestinian militants, allowing them to launch quick strikes against leaders, often using helicopter gunships.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.