GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip, (AP) -Hamas’ military wing called Wednesday on Muslims around the world to attack American targets following reports that an Israeli tank strike killed 18 people in the Gaza Strip town of Beit Hanoun.
The Hamas-led Palestinian government distanced itself from the call, saying its fight was with Israel.
Hamas militants have historically directed their suicide bombings and rocket attacks only against Israeli targets.
“America is offering political, financial and logistic cover for the Zionist occupation crimes, and it is responsible for the Beit Hanoun massacre. Therefore, the people and the nation all over the globe are required to teach the American enemy tough lessons,” Hamas’ military wing said in a statement sent to The Associated Press.
But Ghazi Hamad, spokesman for the Hamas-led Palestinian government, said the group had no intention of attacking American targets.
Hamas’ political wing, led by Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, tries to distinguish itself from the military wing. But the two entities both report to the group’s exiled leadership, based in Syria, and frequently coordinate with each other.
Palestinian witnesses and officials said earlier Wednesday that Israeli tank shells had crashed into a residential neighborhood, killing at least 18 people, including eight children, in their sleep.
Haniyeh said efforts to form a national unity government with moderate President Mahmoud Abbas were suspended because of the attack. Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz ordered the army to halt artillery attacks in Gaza.
But an Israeli government spokesman said Israel will continue its operations in Gaza aimed at halting Palestinian rocket attacks.
“Our battle is against the occupation on the Palestinian land. We have no interest to transfer the battle,” Hamad said, though he called America indirectly responsible for Wednesday’s bloodshed because of its support for Israel.
“We urge the Arab nation and the governments of the Arab countries to protest the world’s silence and the American bias,” he said.
The U.S., like Israel, considers Hamas a terrorist group.