The military wing of the ruling Palestinian party is mourning the death of Osama bin Laden, joining Hamas' salute to the terrorist leader. Bin Laden had been a popular figure among Muslims in the Palestinian territories, where elements of both parties forming a coalition government have shown unusual support for him.
"The Islamic nation was shocked with the news that bin Laden had been killed by the non-believers," said the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, the military wing of the ruling Fatah party, in a statement to Maan news. "The fighters in Palestine and around the world who have lost their leaders did not stop their mission and will continue in the tutelage of their masters."
"We tell the Israeli and the American occupiers that we have leaders who have changed history with their Jihad and their steadfastness. We are ready to sacrifice our lives to bring back peace," the statement read. According to Maan news, the group also pledged that the jihad would continue without him.
Statements of support for bin Laden were also heard from Hamas, a designated terrorist organization which runs the Gaza Strip. Hamas, which has typically responded in a harsh manner to rallies not organized by their party, did not break up small rallies in Gaza in support of bin Laden.
"We regard this as a continuation of the American policy based on oppression and the shedding of Muslim and Arab blood," Ismail Haniyeh, head of the Hamas administration in the Gaza Strip, told reporters. "We condemn the assassination and the killing of an Arab holy warrior. We ask God to offer him mercy with the true believers and the martyrs."
Among the Muslim Palestinian population, "Confidence in Osama bin Laden" remained higher than any other Islamic national group in the world, according to Pew Research Center. Although rates of confidence have declined from 72% in 2003, more than 1 in 3 Palestinians polled expressed support for the terror leader. The Palestinians also gained notoriety following the 9/11 attacks, when thousands took to the streets in the West Bank and Gaza to celebrate.
Statements by Hamas and Fatah's military wing have highlighted Israeli concerns about a new Palestinian coalition government, which will be charged with security in Gaza and the West Bank. Israel has already begun withholding transfers of tax and customs payments to the Palestinian Authority, urging Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas to break off the deal.