Hamas Denies Presence of al-Qaida Activists in Gaza

Hamas official says Shin Bet chief was trying to cause antagonism towards Hamas by claiming that al-Qaida activists were behind recent violence in Gaza.

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A senior Islamic Hamas leader Wednesday denied Israeli claims that al-Qaida activists are in the Gaza Strip, claiming Israel was trying to cause antagonism toward Hamas and the Palestinians.

Yuval Diskin, the head of Israel's Shin Bet internal security organization, had told a Knesset committee on Tuesday that al-Qaida-affiliated activists in the Gaza Strip were most likely behind some of the latest violence from the coastal enclave.

Masked Palestinian militants in Gaza prepare to fire rockets into Israel in 2008.Credit: AP

"There are about 500 militant activists that identify with this idea there, and some are in touch with al-Qaida's regional command," he said.

Hamas official Salah al-Bardaweel however said in a response e-mailed to reporters that "the aim of the Israeli statements in this respect is to antagonize the West and the world against Hamas and the Palestinian people."

"Whenever the occupation (Israel) gets into an internal or external political crisis, it tries to shift attention from what is going on. The Israeli claim to incite the world and stop its
solidarity with our people won't work," he said.

Hamas, which has administered the Gaza Strip since June 2007, reached agreement last week with militant factions in the enclave to stop attacking Israel - reportedly after Egypt warned the Islamist organization that Israel would launch another offensive if the
attacks did not end.

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