DUBAI (Reuters) – Al Qaeda second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahri has accused the Islamist group Hamas of serving U.S. interests by agreeing to respect past Palestinian accords with Israel in a recent Saudi-brokered deal with the Fatah faction.
“Hamas went to a picnic with the U.S. Satan and his Saudi agent,” he said in an audio recording posted on the Internet on Sunday.
Hamas and rival Fatah agreed at a meeting in Mecca a month ago to form a Palestinian coalition cabinet, a move that largely ended weeks of bloody factional fighting, mostly in the Gaza Strip where more than 90 people were killed.
Hamas, which won Palestinian elections in January 2006 and unseated President Mahmoud Abbas’s once-dominant Fatah, refuses to recognize Israel but its Mecca agreement with Fatah contains a vague promise to “respect” past Israeli-Palestinian accords.
“Hamas is undermining the minds and feelings of Muslims and says it will respect instead of comply … respect is higher than compliance,” said Zawahri in the 20-minute tape, parts of which were broadcast by Al Jazeera television earlier on Sunday.
“The leadership of Hamas surrendered to the Jews most of Palestine,” he said. “They sold out all that so they are allowed to keep a third of the government and what a government … a laughable government.”
In Gaza, Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum told Reuters: “We respect all opinions in relation to the Palestinian cause but we hope all Arabs and Muslims will support Hamas and the Palestinian people in their battle against occupation.”
Zawahri said the Mecca deal was part of an attempt by Washington to offset Muslim anger at its bias toward Israel.
“It is an American scheme to hit the Islamic jihadist resistance against the Crusader-Zionist campaign. America wanted a sham solution to the Palestinian issue to remove the biggest reason for Muslim hatred (of the United States).”
Zawahri scolded Hamas for abandoning a tradition of suicide bombings for political gains. “They have ditched the movement of martyrdom operations … for a government that plays with words in palace halls.”
“The leadership of the Hamas government has committed an aggression against the rights of the Islamic nation by accepting what it called … respecting international agreements.”
Zawahri, in his broadside that included governments from Washington to Jakarta, said Hamas had “fallen into the quagmire of surrender.”
The Egyptian cleric also criticized the inaction of Arab and Muslim governments over Israeli excavations beneath and around Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque, Islam’s third holiest shrine.
“Israel committed an aggression against the sanctity of the Aqsa but the so-called governments of Arab and Muslim countries had nothing but screams and denunciation,” he said.