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Hamas leader denies al Qaeda is operating in Gaza

By Kevin Flower, CNN
Ismail Haniya speaks to reporters at his office in Gaza on Wednesday.
Ismail Haniya speaks to reporters at his office in Gaza on Wednesday.
  • Prime minister says al Qaeda is not operating in Gaza
  • He says charge is "an illusion" by Israel
  • Haniya says he has assured Egypt Palestinians are not planning attacks in the Sinai
  • Hamas
  • Al Qaeda

Jerusalem (CNN) -- The prime minister of the Hamas government in Gaza denied Wednesday Israeli claims of an al Qaeda presence in the coastal strip, claiming there is no such thing.

Speaking to reporters, Ismail Haniya said there was an active Palestinian resistance in Gaza but that it "does not work outside of the borders of Palestine."

He said recent Israeli accusations that al Qaeda had secured a foothold in the Palestinian territory were "an illusion" and were being used a pretext for future Israeli military action in Gaza and to incite American and international public opinion against Palestinians.

The remarks were made in reference to Israel's targeted killings last month of two Palestinians in Gaza. The Israeli military claimed the victims were senior operatives of an al Qaeda inspired radical group known as the Army of Islam and were planning attacks against Israeli and American targets in the Sinai Peninsula.

Haniya said he had written a letter to Egypt's intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, assuring him that no Palestinian resistance groups were operating in the Sinai Peninsula.

Asked about Hamas' relationship with Salafist organizations in Gaza, Haniya stressed the "moderate" nature of the Palestinian people and said the government was "not seeking a clash with any party." Salafists are a Muslim splinter group.

Haniya acknowledged that Hamas had some differences with Salafist organizations in the past but claimed there had been "no significant incidents" since a violent showdown with a radical group in August of last year which left 21 dead and scores injured.

Haniya argued Israel's targeted killings were part of a coordinated Israeli government media campaign to portray Palestinians as the aggressor.

"We are the ones being strangled in the siege, and now Gaza is being marketed as the ones who have the bombs, missiles and anti-aircraft missiles" Haniya said

"This is purely made up and all lies."