Mahmoud al-Zahar

In an exclusive interview with WorldNetDaily to be released in full on Monday, Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahar warned that U.S. President George W. Bush’s actions in the Middle East are “placing America in danger,” accusing Bush of “shooting innocent populations with missiles” in Iraq and Afghanistan, and starting a confrontation “between the West and 1.3 billion Muslims in the world.”

Al-Zahar spoke to WND from Gaza. He is the most senior Hamas member in all of Israel and the Palestinian territories, and is second in the organization only to overall Hamas leader Khaled Meshal, who resides in Syria.

“I think Bush is doing an enormous historical crime by fighting against Islam and giving Islam adjectives like fascism and terrorism,” said al-Zahar. “I want to ask about what happened [when America pounded the caves in 2001 during operations in Afghanistan] at Tora Bora? And what happened and is still happening in Faluja? Are the Americans shooting chocolates and biscuits on the local and innocent population? No, they are shooting missiles.

“What about the Americans in charge of their prison in Abu Ghraib, sending dogs on the prisoners. Is this okay? And a president who lies to his people and says the war in Iraq is led in order to abolish the mass destruction weapons while it was discovered there were no such weapons in Iraq. Is it okay?

“Therefore I say that President Bush puts in danger American interests when he chooses to fight against Islam and describe Islam in a negative way that makes him face 1.3 billion Muslims in the world. It is stupid that a person decides to push the West and Islam into a confrontation. Doing so puts in danger his own interests.”

Al-Zahar took the occasion of the interview to declare Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, completed last month, a victory for Hamas and other Palestinian groups’ “resistance operations,” and said Hamas will next focus on forcing Israel from the West Bank.

“[That our operations caused Israel to withdraw from Gaza] is the truth and the reality and we lived this reality during the last few weeks,” al-Zahar told WND. “The withdrawal happened after years of political and diplomatic activity that achieved nothing. …The resistance caused Israel heavy damages, including on Israeli soldiers and Israeli society. Therefore the resistance is the Palestinians main tool and option and will remain so. [Israeli Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon must realize what brought him to withdraw from Gaza and do the same thing in the West Bank.”

Asked whether Hamas is trying to ultimately capture only the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem or if it is committing attacks to destroy all of Israel, al-Zahar responded: “No one will deny the fact that before 1948, the state of Israel did not exist and that for thousands of years this land was part of an Islamic and Arabic land. History proves that this is the land of the Palestinian people and we will never give up any part of it. If our generation will not succeed to liberate all of historical Palestine then that mission will be for the following generations.”

Al-Zahar also called recent reports that al-Qaida members are in Gaza “Israeli propaganda,” claiming Israel sent fake al-Qaida agents to liase with Palestinian groups.

“All these talks about the presence of al-Qaida is Israeli talks and propaganda. Israel tries to link al-Qaida, which acts abroad, and the resistance in Palestine in order to gain sympathy in the international community and in public opinion against Hamas and the Palestinian resistance,” said al-Zahar.

“We know that Israel tried through its agents to have contacts with marginal activists in the Palestinian resistance. The agents represented themselves as al-Qaida members and tried to tempt these people with money and weapons. This is part of the Israeli effort to represent things even though they are not that way in order to say that al-Qaida exists in the Gaza Strip.”

The Hamas leader scoffed at demands by the Palestinian Authority, Israel and the international community that his group disarm as a precondition for entering Palestinian legislative elections in January.

“What reason do they have to ask us and the other organizations to disarm while the enemy is continuing to attack the Gaza Strip and is planning to occupy it? Didn’t Sharon bombard Gaza with aircraft after the withdrawal? Didn’t he put in position artillery and threaten to use it? If any of this happens, who will defend the Gaza Strip? Will it be the PA that is against any armed struggle and that has never done anything against Israeli attacks? Therefore disarming the organizations is not a possibility. If we are disarmed, how will we face Israel while it is trying to occupy the Gaza strip again.”

Among other topics addressed in the full interview to be released Monday, al-Zahar discusses the possibility of Hamas’ rocket attacks against Jerusalem and Tel Aviv; says he is suspicious the PA may have been involved in late PLO Leader Yasser Arafat’s demise; and welcomes Christians to join Hamas, which he says stands for the fair treatment of all non-Muslims, including Jews.

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