Hamas' condemnation of killing Osama bin Laden reflects the movement's deep identification with extremist jihadist Islam and Al-Qaeda's anti-Western orientation

Issued on: 05/05/2011 Type: Article

Ismail Haniya condemns the targeted killing of Osama bin Laden
Ismail Haniya condemns the targeted killing of Osama bin Laden (Al-Jazeera TV, May 2, 2011).


1. Ismail Haniya, head of the de facto Hamas administration in the Gaza Strip, was quick to condemn the targeted killing of Osama bin Laden (referred to by him and a Hamas activist as a "jihad fighter"). Haniya also condemned what he considered the American policy behind the struggle against Al-Qaeda and global terrorism.

2. In addition, Hamas Internet forums posted comments condemning the killing of bin Laden, referred to as "the prince of the jihad fighters," and expressing confidence that he would reach the paradise of the righteous and the shaheeds. Spokesmen affiliated with the Palestinian Authority, on the other hand, praised the killing, saying that it would be beneficial to the peace process.

3. The attitude of the Hamas movement to Al-Qaeda and its ideology is complex:

1) On one hand, Hamas does not identify with the global jihad against the United States and the West in general, focusing its strategies on the campaign against Israel. Within the internal Palestinian arena it is willing to accept governmental responsibility and participate in elections for Palestinian Authority institutions. For that it was severely criticized in the past by Al-Qaeda,1 which accused it of "selling out Palestine" and abandoning the path of jihad. In addition, in recent years Hamas has had to struggle with the Salafist-jihadist networks operating in the Gaza Strip ideologically affiliated with Al-Qaeda, and has occasionally been forced to respond to their challenges (the most recent of which was the abduction and murder of an Italian International Solidarity Movement activist by a local network affiliated with Al-Qaeda).

2) On the other hand, Hamas identifies with the extremist Islam represented by Al-Qaeda, as well as with its jihadist fervor, and its anti-Western anti-Israeli orientation. That is a result of its radical Islamic ideology, which can be found in the Hamas charter.2 For that reason, Abdullah Azzam, a Palestinian from the Jenin area, who was Osama bin Laden's ideological mentor, is admired and considered a role model by Hamas. In addition, in our assessment Hamas is aware of the admiration felt by its supporters for Osama bin Laden and his path (of which the talkbacks on the Hamas forum are an indication), and by the population of the Gaza Strip in general.

Initial responses in the Palestinian arena

Senior Hamas figures


4. Hamas officially condemned the American killing of Osama bin Laden. Ismail Haniya, head of the de facto Hamas administration in the Gaza Strip, told media correspondents that "we most definitely condemn the killing of an Arab Muslim jihad fighter [mujahed], and we pray to Allah to cover him with mercy along with the prophets, the righteous and the shaheeds." He added that "if the information [about the death of bin Laden] is correct, I think it is a continuation of American policy based on oppression and shedding Arab and Muslim blood, with no connection to the various differences within the Arab world" (Hamas’ daily Felesteen, May 2, 2011).

5. Ismail al-Ashqar, a Hamas member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, condemned the killing, calling it "a crime and state terrorism carried out by the United States" against Muslims. He said that Hamas did not agree with Al-Qaeda regarding the struggle against Europe and the United States because Hamas fighters and their struggle focused on the "Zionist occupation of Palestine," believing they would contribute to Islam and the Palestinian people (Hamas' Safa News Agency, May 2, 2011).

Talkbacks on Hamas forums 

6. A number of talkbacks on PALDF, Hamas’ main forum, condemned the targeted killing of Osama bin Laden. One surfer an article written by Abd al-Bari Atwan, editor of the London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi, about his personal acquaintance with bin Laden. Atwan said he interviewed him in Tora Bora in 1996, and described him as "pleasant." A talkback to the article said that Atwan had given "our dear sheikh words that came from his heart, what he deserved...May Allah have mercy on sheikh Osama and put him [in paradise] next to the righteous and the shaheeds."

7. Another posting called Osama bin Laden "the prince of the jihad fighters [emir al-mujahedeen]...who carried the Islamic nation on his shoulders...Sheikh Osama bin Laden is the one who exacts vengeance for the Muslim women, old people and men in Gaza, Afghanistan and Palestine, confronting the Crusaders while the rest of the Muslims are apathetic and asleep."

8. According to another posting, the Muslim brothers in Egypt and Palestine, as well as in other areas, condemned the action, because they regarded bin Laden as "an Arab Muslim jihad fighter." It also noted that bin Laden "never attacked the Muslim brothers, directly or indirectly, as opposed to the screams of sheikh Al-Zawahiri on satellite TV all the time." It added that according to one of bin Laden's close aides, he had no intention of fighting the United States and only did so after America persecuted him and chased him from Pakistan and after that from Sudan. It also claimed that Osama bin Laden's ideology did not approve of violence and the person who influenced him the most in respect to violence was Ayman al-Zawahiri.

9. Several posting adopted Internet signatures in honor of bin Laden's memory. One signed himself "May Allah have mercy on this beard and its owner," another said "Our dear sheikh, you promised us we would live in safety and for that reason the sons of Hamas are loyal to you." Osama bin Laden was quoted on another Hamas forum as saying "I swear by Allah, may he be exalted, the great one who glorifies the heavens, that the United States will not sleep, and no one who lives in the United States will live quietly and in security until we live [quietly and in security] in Palestine." A surfer calling himself Qassam al-Ansar called on all web surfers to go to the Izz al-Din al-Qassam mosque in the Nuseirat refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip after the Friday prayer. There, he said, Sheikh Yussuf Farhat would lead a special prayer for the dead Osama bin Laden.

An appeal on the Hamas forum to say a special prayer for Osama bin Laden
An appeal on the Hamas forum to say a special prayer for Osama bin Laden
(from the website of PALDF, Hamas’ main forum, May 2, 2011).

PALDF, Hamas’ main forum, May 2, 2011
A posting on the forum: "Our dear sheikh, you promised us we would live in safety and for that reason the sons of Hamas are loyal to you" (from the website of PALDF, Hamas’ main forum, May 2, 2011).

The Popular Resistance Committees

10. The PRC website posted a condemnation of the targeted killing of Osama bin Laden, calling him a "shaheed." The posting expressed the hope that "Allah will sit him with the prophets and shaheeds." It also said that the PRC would continue the jihad "against the Zionists and their allies, the Crusaders" until they were expelled and Jerusalem had been purified of "contamination" (website of the military wing of the PRC, May 2, 2011).

Responses from the Palestinian Authority

11. As opposed to Hamas and the other terrorist organizations operating in the Gaza Strip, spokesmen for the Palestinian Authority expressed support for the targeted killing of Osama bin Laden. Palestinian Authority spokesman Ghassan al-Khatib said that killing Osama bin Laden was beneficial to the peace process. He said the violent methods created by bin Laden and others around the globe had to be overcome (Ynet, May 2, 2011). Salam Fayyad, Palestinian prime minister, praised the killing and said that it was the death of an abominable man (Haaretz, May 3, 2011).

1 For further information see, for example, the March 2007 ITIC bulletin, " Ayman al-Zawahiri lashed out at the Hamas movement once again, accusing it of abandoning jihad and "selling Palestine” for seats in the Palestinian unity government" at http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/malam_multimedia/English/eng_n/pdf/al_zawahiri_e.pdf.

2 For further information, see the 2006 ITIC bulletin, "The Hamas Charter" at http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/malam_multimedia/English/eng_n/pdf/hamas_charter.pdf

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