GAZA CITY, Gaza – FOX News' Reena Ninan sat down with Dr. Mahmoud Zahar, the leader and co-founder of Hamas in his home in Gaza City this summer and asked about the Annapolis Peace Conference and Mideast politics.
Even during the day the people of Gaza live in the dark. The morning we arrived there had been no power for five days. No electricity means no lights. No air conditioning, not even a simple fan to keep Gazans cool.
Inside the home of Hamas leader Dr. Mahmoud Zahar, a man whose organization is labeled by the U.S. as a terrorist group, there was no escape from the searing summer heat.
The fans hung idly from the gilded gold ceiling of the living room, a reminder that in Gaza not even the powerful are immune from the power shortages that have crippled this little strip of land that sits between Israel and the Mediterranean Sea.
The Israeli company providing power to Gaza cut off their supply because Hamas hasn’t paid them.
Zahar is the leader and co-founder of Hamas. Palestinian officials and sources inside Hamas tell us that Zahar is the man credited with leading the group's takeover of Gaza in June, which routed forces loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Since then, all of Gaza still remains under their control.
It's almost instinctive to reach out and shake someone's hand before an interview, but when Zahar entered the room I made a point to consciously put my hands behind my back, making sure I didn't touch him. In an Islamic state, which is what Gaza seems to be leaning towards, women do not touch or shake hands with men.
We head outside to the front garden. Two plastic chairs were already arranged next to the manicured green lawn. It’s hard not to notice Zahar’s perfectly tailored suit. He seems relaxed and is very welcoming.
I began by asking what hope, if any, he held for the peace process.
"Peace will not be made by America," he told me. "They always meet and kiss and nothing happens here in the Mideast."
He was eqaully scathing about Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayad (who the U.S. supports), and his call for Zahar to step down because he took over Gaza in a violent coup. "He is no Prime Minister. What happened is a credit for Hamas. What happened in Gaza will also come to the West Bank," he said.
Zahar also brought up the kidnapping of two of our FOX News colleagues, Steve Centanni and Olaf Wigg, who were abducted in Gaza August 2006. They were taken by a mafia-like family known as the Dogmush.
"I'm very sorry about what happened to them, it was the Dogmush family and not Hamas that kidnapped them," Zahar says. "I am glad you returned to Gaza. It is not an easy thing."
He knows first hand about the dangers of Gaza. In 2003 Israeli F-16s dropped bombs on his home. His son Khaled and one of his bodyguards were killed. Zahar, his wife, and daughter were injured but survived. His home was razed to the ground. Knowing the Israeli Air Force has your address dialed in might have made others move on, but he rebuilt the three-story house and still lives there.
I couldn't help but notice the two SUV's parked next to the sofas when we arrived. I was told they were there so that if Zahar needed to make a fast getaway his cars were ready to whisk him off. Keeping them inside his home also means they can't be booby-trapped.
As the on-camera interview went on I asked him about the electricity situation, which is making life intolerable for many Gazans.
"We're doing this interview in your garden because you have no electricity. All of Gaza has no electricity for 5 days now. Is this the best you can do for your people?", I asked.
"This is not a movie-film," he replied tersely. "We will get power back in two weeks."
His eyes squinted tightly. He looks at me sternly, clearly unhappy with my question.
"Many Palestinians in the West Bank accuse you of playing right into the hands of the Israelis. They accuse you of dividing the Palestinian cause and creating two separate authorities, one in the West Bank and one in Gaza," I continue.
Zahar was unapologetic. "We took over Gaza because Fatah (headed by President Abbas) is weak and the corrupted ones. They are not trusted. We won twice, once with elections and once again through our Gaza takeover in June."
Once again the conversation returned to U.S. policy and its attempts to try and isolate Hamas.
"They (the U.S.) are anti-Islamic," he said. "They consider Islam as terrorists. They are going to be surprised because there's a big resurgence of Islam."
After about 45 minutes, an aide whispered to Zahar that they were late for a meeting. As we got up to shoot some video, I asked if he were the subject of a movie who would play him, a Rambo character type or a James Bond villain?
"No. Your President Bush is Rambo. He walks like this…" Zahar said as he jumped out of his seat, puffing his chest out, arms drawn to his side, and began walking with a swagger resembling a gorilla.
He was clearly playing up for the camera, so I thought now might be a good time to ask about his perfectly tailored outfit. I found it hard to believe he bought it in Gaza. "It's a nice suit you're wearing...where'd you get it from...Syria?"
At first he laughed but then got serious. "No. Hezbollah."
"So this is part of the Hassan Nasrallah's '07 fall collection?" I asked, referring to the group's leader.
Zahar let out a deep laugh along with his security staff. "Yes. We get support from more places than Iran and Syria."