(photo credit: Rafael D. Frankel)
Officials of Hamas on Sunday shrugged off the support offered the day before by al-Qaida's No. 2 leader in a video broadcast, saying their group has a different ideology than the terror network and won parliamentary elections through its moderate approach to Islam.
In a video aired Saturday by Al-Jazeera television, Ayman al-Zawahri called for jihad, or holy war, to reclaim Palestinian lands and implied al-Qaida's support for Hamas' refusal to recognize Israel despite international pressure since the militant Islamic group swept parliamentary elections in January.
A Hamas official in Gaza, speaking on condition of anonymity because the movement did not wish to formally respond to al-Zawahri's support, said: "Hamas believes that Islam is completely different to the ideology of Mr. al-Zawahri."
"Our battle is against the Israeli occupation and our only concern is to restore our rights and serve our people. We have no links with any group or element outside Palestine," the official said.
Al-Zawahri complained in the videotape that the previous Palestinian leaderships "sold Palestine" through peace agreements in Oslo and Madrid and the US-backed road map peace plan. "This is a dangerous deal which should be dropped immediately," he said.
"No one has the right, whether a Palestinian or not, to abandon a grain of soil from Palestine which was a Muslim land that was occupied by infidels. It is the duty of every Muslim to work on getting it back," he said.
In place of negotiations, he said, was "the path of prophets and messengers, which is ... jihad, until the soil will be liberated and the Islamic states rise again."
"I would like to tell my brothers in Palestine that reaching power is needed to implement Islamic rule," he said.
But in what was seen by some as criticism of Hamas for running in elections, he said: "Entering with those who have sold Palestine, the legislative council, and recognizing their selling, stands against Islam."
Hamas, though, has refused to recognize the peace deals.
Mahmoud Zahar, a Hamas leader, reacting to al-Zawahri's speech, told Al-Jazeera that his group was elected through its moderate approach to Islam, which did not compare to al-Qaida's exclusionary tactics.
"We are not a movement that labels people infidels or that abandons them. We are a movement that lives the realities of the people and that uses wisdom ... to turn them to Islam," he said.
"When Hamas entered parliament, it did so under the slogan: Islam is the solution. When the people decided to vote for it, they believed that Islam can solve their economic, social and political problems as well their military battles against the occupation."
He said Hamas has proved through its good behavior and its resistance to the occupation "that it is fit to be the leader of this street."