GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip – The leader of the militant Hamas government in the Gaza Strip condemned the United States on Monday for killing al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden.
Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said the operation marked "the continuation of the American oppression and shedding of blood of Muslims and Arabs."
"Despite the difference in opinions and agenda between us and them, we condemn the assassination of a Muslim and Arab warrior and we pray to God that his soul rests in peace," Haniyeh told reporters in Gaza.
The Palestinian militants of Hamas insist they have no ties to al-Qaida and that their violent struggle is directed solely against Israel, not the West at large. Extremist splinter groups in Gaza claim they are inspired by al-Qaida and world jihad and are considered rivals to Hamas.
Even so, Palestinian leaders often criticize the U.S. for what they see as its pro-Israel bias. The West Bank and Gaza Strip were among the few places in the world where public celebrations took place after the al-Qaida attacks on the U.S. on Sept. 11, 2001.
In contrast to Haniyeh, the prime minister of the Western-backed Palestinian Authority, Salam Fayyad, congratulated the United States for killing bin Laden.
"I view this as a major and mega landmark event marking the end of a person who clearly was involved in acts of terror and destruction. This would mark a beginning of an end of a very dark era," he said.
The Palestinian Authority, which governs in the West Bank, is dominated by the Fatah movement, which is set to sign a unity deal with Hamas in Cairo on Wednesday. The plan seeks to end a four-year rift that has produced rival governments in the West Bank and Gaza.