By Ruth King



On Friday, January 21, 2005, 17 year old Ella Abukakis died.  She had been critically wounded when a Kassam rocket exploded just as Ella and her siblings were walking to their home in Sderot.  Her brother Tamir survived because Ella, on hearing the warning sirens, covered him with her body.


Did you ever wonder where the name “Kassam” comes from?  The deadly rocket is aptly named after Sheikh Izz al-Din al-Qassam (circa 1882-1935).  In 1921, al-Qassam moved to Palestine from Cairo, settled in Haifa and became an influential imam.  He preached jihad against all non Moslem occupants of Palestine, most especially armed struggle to free Palestine from Jews.


After the riots of 1929 al-Qassam ratcheted up his calls for violence, and in the early 1930s established a secret association, called ‘The Black Hand’ (al-kaff al-aswad), whose aim was to kill Jews and terrorize the Jewish population.  In 1935 he was killed by the British.  Almost immediately Qassam became a martyr and his gravesite a shrine.  His disciples continued his tradition of terror and his legacy inspires jihadists unto this day.  Hamas Brigades are named after him as is the deadly rocket that targets Israeli civilians.  He remains a cult figure to Israel’s Arab enemies.


(I am indebted to Dr. Andrew Bostom M.D. who detailed the bloody life and times of Qassam in his speech to the AFSI conference on December 5th, 2004.  His entire talk “The Legacy of Jihad in Palestine” can be read at

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