Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh on Monday condemned the killing of Osama bin Laden, whom he hailed as a Muslim mujahed [warrior] and Arab human being.

Haniyeh told reporters in Gaza City that the killing of bin Laden came in the context of the United States’ policy of killing and repression.

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Another Hamas representative, Ismail al-Ashqar, condemned the killing of bin Laden as a crime and state terror.

He said that the US alone would bear the responsibility for the killing of the al-Qaida chief.

“We consider Osama bin Laden a modest man and a mujahed,” the Hamas official said. “He had billions of dollars and yet he give all that up and chose to fight alongside his Afghan brothers against the Soviet Union. He considered America as the enemy of Islam and Muslims because of the harm it did to Muslims.”

Al-Ashqar said that Hamas agreed with bin Laden on a number of issues, but differed with him on others. He said that unlike al-Qaida, Hamas “chose to restrict its fight against Israel to Palestine only because that’s in the interest of the Palestinian people and their cause.”

Hamas’s praise for bin Laden came despite the fact that its security forces have been cracking down on extremist, al-Qaida-inspired groups that have popped up in the Gaza Strip in the past few years.

Just recently, one of these groups kidnapped and murdered a pro-Palestinian Italian activist who had been living in the Gaza Strip for the past few years.

Hamas’s condemnation of the bin Laden elimination also came on the eve of the signing of the Egyptian-sponsored unity deal with Fatah.

Hamas and Fatah are scheduled to sign the agreement in Cairo on Wednesday.

Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal met in Cairo on Monday with the new head of Egypt’s General Intelligence Service, Murad Mawafi, and discussed with him the latest developments surrounding the unity agreement.

The meeting was attended by Hamas officials Musa Abu Marzouk, Mohammed Nasr and Izat Risheq.

Fatah, meanwhile, refrained from commenting on the killing of bin Laden. Al-Qaida leaders and spokesmen have in the past attacked the Palestinian Authority because of the peace talks with Israel.

But a spokesman for PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said that the death of bin Laden would benefit the cause of peace worldwide.

Fatah leader Azzam al-Ahmed said on Monday that his group was determined to sign the unity accord with Hamas. He said that PA President Mahmoud Abbas would sign the agreement on behalf of Fatah and the PLO.

Ahmed said that the new unity government would consist of technocrats who would have no powers to interfere in political matters. He said that the PLO and the PA would continue to be in charge of the peace process with Israel.

He also said that the PA leadership was determined to go ahead with plans to seek UN recognition of a Palestinian state in September.

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