The leader of Hamas, the Islamist Palestinian militant group that rules Gaza, has condemned the assassination of Osama Bin Laden by the United States.
We condemn any killing of a holy warrior or of a Muslim and Arab person and we ask God to bestow his mercy upon him, Haniyeh told reporters in Gaza.
If the news is true, then we consider it a continuation of the American policy based on oppression and bloodshed against Arabs and Muslims.”
Haniyeh indicated that although Hamas and Al Qaeda had their “difference in interpretations between us,” he prayed that bin Laden's soul rests in peace.
Although Hamas is clearly an Islamist movement, it is not as extreme as Al Qaeda and does not espouse a global jihad (holy war). Hamas has repeatedly stated that it is in conflict only with Israel, not the West at large.
Indeed, Hamas has already clashed with extremist Salafist groups in Gaza who share Al Qaeda’s philosophies.
Just last month, Hamas killed two alleged Salafi militants who had kidnapped and murdered an Italian peace activist in Gaza.
Still, Hamas conciliatory remarks about Osama put it in direct contrast with the more moderate Palestinian group, Fatah, which praised the killing of Osama. (Fatah rules the West Bank under the auspices of the Palestinian Authority).
Indeed, Ghassan Khatib, the spokesman for the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah, said: Getting rid of Bin Laden is good for the cause of peace worldwide but what counts is to overcome the discourse and the methods - the violent methods - that were created and encouraged by Bin Laden and others in the world.”
This gap in ideology raises worries about the sustainability of the peace and unity agreement that Hamas and Fatah signed last week.