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Thousands march after Yassin's killing

Israeli army seals off West Bank, Gaza

CNN Correspondent Paula Hancocks
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CNN's Paula Hancocks reports on the killing of Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin.
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Ahmed Yassin

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- An Israeli missile strike killed Hamas founder and spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin on Monday morning. CNN Correspondent Paula Hancocks in Jerusalem describes the immediate reaction to the killing to CNN anchor Allison Bell.

HANCOCKS: The Israeli army is actually sealing off the West Bank and Gaza into Israel at the moment. A natural reaction, we can imagine, when they do see thousands of Palestinians taking to the streets as they are at the moment, in the reaction to the death of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin.

He was the most high-profile figure, so far, to be killed by these so-called targeted killings by Israeli forces -- these assassinations that they have been carrying out since the Intifada started back in September 2000. But over the last 3 1/2 years, he is by far the highest profile member that they have killed and targeted.

I have reaction from Israel's deputy defense minister, saying Yassin had been marked for death for a long time.

We are also hearing from the Israeli defense forces that they have closed off the Gaza strip to media as well.

They are closing off the West Bank and Gaza for Palestinians, so no Palestinians will be able to cross over into Israel. They have closed off both these borders, obviously worried about some reprisals from what has happened this morning.

Tens of thousands of Palestinians are in the streets in Gaza City, commemorating Sheikh Ahmed Yassin.

He was very respected, very loved within the Palestinian community, within the Hamas community as well.

BELL: Paula, as you mentioned earlier, back in January, Israel pledged to eliminate Sheikh Yassin, saying he was marked for death. What sort of protection was Sheikh Yassin surrounded by?

HANCOCKS: Well, he would have had bodyguards around him. In fact, some of those bodyguards were killed alongside him today. But there's a limited amount of protection you can have from an Israeli attack helicopter that is going to fire a missile at you.

He was targeted as he was coming out of a mosque for pre-dawn prayers. So this is something, obviously, that he has to do. So it is very difficult to protect himself from something like this.

Sheikh Yassin has been in and out of Israeli prisons for many years.

He was also targeted by Israeli defense forces back in September 2003. They fired a missile onto his house where he was meeting other Hamas leaders. He managed to escape from that relatively unharmed.

There are thousands of militants in the street -- this has happened in the past as well.

The first time that there was an attempt on Sheikh Yassin's life, he came out into the streets and vowed revenge for the attempted assassination and there were thousands of Palestinians that came to hear him.

They were cheering. They were applauding.

So, this just demonstrates the amount of respect and loyalty that Sheikh Yassin does carry within the Hamas group and also within Gaza City itself.

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