Barack Obama speaks to media during trip to Israel in July
JERUSALEM – Hamas held a meeting in the Gaza Strip several months ago with aides to President-elect Barack Obama, but the terror group was asked to keep the contacts secret until after last week's elections, according to a senior Hamas official.
Ahmed Yousef, Hamas' chief political adviser in Gaza, told the leading Al-Hayat Arabic-language newspaper Hamas has maintained regular communication with Obama aides that even continued during the past week.
"We were in contact with a number of Obama's aides through the Internet, and later met with some of them in Gaza, but they advised us not to come out with any statements, as they may have a negative effect on his election campaign and be used by Republican candidate John McCain (to attack Obama)," Yousuf told Al-Hayat.
Yousuf said Hamas' contact with Obama's advisers was ongoing, adding that relations were maintained after Obama's electoral victory last Tuesday.
Yousef could not be reached by WND for immediate comment. It wasn't clear which Obama aides Hamas is claiming to have met in Gaza. Obama's transition team did not immediately respond to a WND e-mail and phone message requesting comment.
Obama's senior foreign policy adviser, Denis McDonough, told the Jerusalem Post today, "This assertion is just plain false."
Yousef gave WND a series of recent interviews in which he praised Obama as the leading candidate. Last week, he called Obama's win a "historic victory" for the world and told WND that Hamas was sending a letter of congratulation to the president-elect.
Six months ago, Robert Malley, a Mideast expert described as an ancillary adviser to Obama, resigned amid a report in a London newspaper that he had contact with Hamas. According to some media reports, Malley is again representing Obama's positions in meetings in Egypt and Syria, although it wasn't immediately clear whether he was acting independently. FrontPageMagazine.com claims Malley was dispatched by Obama.
Hamas is responsible for scores of suicide bombings, rocket attacks, shootings and cross-border raids. Its official charter calls for the murder of Jews and destruction of Israel. Just today, Hamas members took responsibility for launching dozens of rockets from Gaza aimed at Jewish civilian population centers.
Last week, Yousef told WND of Obama's win: "This is a historic day, a turning point. I think this is the very first time in history that one country's election concerned everyone everywhere all over [the] world. Everybody is looking forward to Obama's change, for a change in the U.S. policy, particularly in the Israeli-Palestinian equation, which is the mother of all conflicts."
Yousef said he believes an Obama administration will be more willing to engage in dialogue with Hamas.
He said Obama's job will be to "restore America's dignity in the world and put an end to the wars in the region."
Yousef took the occasion to blast the policies of President Bush, commenting he hopes "that after January the Bush administration will not be heard from again."
"We are sick of wars and conflict," the Hamas official said.
Yousef seemed aware his comments may generate some negative publicity for Obama, but he said he feels it important to "reach out and to express our thoughts and engage."
"I praised him six months ago, some people tried to use that against him. But I knew he would win. Like everyone else, we expected this important victory," he said.
Yousef was referring to an interview he gave to WND and WABC Radio in April in which he praised Obama and then found his comments had fueled a firestorm of accusations in the presidential campaign.
In April, Yousef stated he hoped Obama would become president, comparing the Illinois senator to President John F. Kennedy.
"We like Mr. Obama, and we hope that he will win the election," Yousef told WND at the time.
"I hope Mr. Obama and the Democrats will change the political discourse. ... I do believe [Obama] is like John Kennedy, a great man with a great principle. And he has a vision to change America to make it in a position to lead the world community, but not with humiliation and arrogance," Yousef said.
Sen. John McCain repeatedly used Yousef's remarks to criticize Obama's judgment foreign policy.
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