An animal rights group on Wednesday criticized a program on a Hamas-run television station in which a man swings cats by their tails and throws stones at lions in a zoo to teach children not to abuse animals.

The segment on the children's program "Tomorrow's Pioneers" features one of the show's characters, a man in a bee costume named Nahoul. It's followed by a warning from the show's young host that children should not imitate Nahoul's behavior.

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"They say this is supposed to be educational on how not to treat animals, but it is common knowledge that children will mimic the behavior they see," said Martin Mersereau, spokesman for Norfolk, Va.-based People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

The station, Al-Aqsa TV, issued no immediate public statement on the criticism.

The sketch drew PETA's attention after it was picked up by Palestinian Media Watch, an Israeli watchdog group that monitors Palestinian media outlets for bias against Israel, and posted on YouTube.

Mersereau said animal abuse should not be ignored even in places where violence against humans is common. Israeli troops regularly clash in Gaza with Palestinian militants who fire rockets at Israeli towns. Six Palestinians, including four armed militants, were killed in fighting on Tuesday.

"Teaching people to respect the most defenseless of animals helps people respect each other," Mersereau said.

The Hamas children's show has been criticized in the past. Until June, it featured a character in a Mickey Mouse suit named Farfour, who preached against Israel and the U.S. until an episode portrayed him being beaten to death by an actor playing an Israeli agent.

The character drew condemnations from Israel and from Walt Disney.

Hamas, an Islamic group with close ties to Iran, has ruled the Gaza Strip since June, when the group's militants defeated the rival Fatah movement in five days of fighting.

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