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Senior Palestinian militant jailed by Israel dies of cancer

Senior Palestinian militant jailed by Israel dies of cancer
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By Reuters
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(This Dec. 20 story has been corrected to remove reference to the Palestinian militant dying in an Israeli jail in the headline)

RAMALLAH/GAZA - A senior Palestinian militant jailed for life by Israel, and who was cited by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in a speech to the United Nations, died of cancer on Tuesday, authorities said.

Nasser Abu Hmaid, co-founder of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, an armed wing of Abbas's Fatah movement, had been convicted of killing seven Israelis and planning other attacks. The Brigades is deemed a terrorist group in Israel and the West.

He was serving multiple life sentences and had been in prison since 2002.

In Ramallah, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, armed members of Abbas's Fatah faction rallied in the streets, some firing rifles into the air before they announced the formation of a new armed group called "The Masked Lion", a nom de guerre of Hmaid.

Abbas accused Israel of neglecting Abu Hmaid's medical needs and held it responsible for his death, the official Palestinian news agency WAFA said. Israel's Prisons Service said Abu Hmaid, 50, had received "close and continuous treatment" for his lung cancer.

After Abu Hmaid's health condition deteriorated, the Prisons Service moved him to a hospital outside the jail and let his family visit him briefly on Monday, in the presence of guards, his mother told Voice of Palestine radio.

"Thank God, I and his brothers were able to see him and pay him farewell," she said, adding that she hoped his body would be released for burial.

In his speech to the U.N. General Assembly in September, Abbas said Palestinians were telling "the heroic prisoner Nasser Abu Hmaid and his companions that dawn is coming, and it is time for their chains to be broken".

Ismail Haniyeh, the political chief of the rival Islamist Hamas group, mourned Hmaid's death in a statement as "a crime that will not go unpunished."

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