Hamas' displeasure over the military operation that killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden should not come as a surprise given the terror groups' shared ideological origins and operational links, according to Jonathan Schanzer of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh's condemnation of the United States for killing the al-Qaida boss underscores the Muslim Brotherhood connections between the Sunni jihadist organizations. Along with bin Laden, al-Qaida was founded by Abdullah Azzam, a prominent Palestinian figure in the Brotherhood; Hamas was founded by Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, another major Palestinian Brotherhood figure.
Although Hamas denies having operational ties with al-Qaida, the groups have a history of connections dating back nearly two decades. In the early 1990s, Schanzer writes that Hamas members "received paramilitary training and attended Islamist conferences in Sudan, alongside bin Laden and his supporters."
In September 2000 and January 2001, bin Laden reportedly sent emissaries to Hamas. While most analysts believe Hamas rejected al-Qaida's proposal that the two groups coordinate violence against Israel, "it appears Hamas never closed the door," Schanzer writes.
In 2002, the Washington Post quoted official U.S. government sources as confirming the existence of a loose alliance involving al-Qaida, Hamas and Hizballah.
In 2003, Israel arrested three Hamas fighters returning from al-Qaida terrorist training camps in Afghanistan. Also that year, Time magazine quoted Jordanian security officials stating that Hamas members went to Afghanistan in an effort to persuade al-Qaida fighters to return to the Palestinian territories.
According to Israeli terrorism analyst Dore Gold, in 2003 and 2004, Israeli forces found Hamas posters distributed in the West Bank which praised the jihadist campaigns being waged by radicals in Kashmir, Chechnya and the Balkans.
Gold wrote that at the top of posters were portraits of Hamas leader Yassin "alongside portraits of bin Laden and Chechen militant leaders like Shamil Basayev, who took credit for the bloody attack on a Russian school in Beslan." Approximately 330 people, many of them children, died during the three-day siege that took place in September 2004.
In 2006, Arab media reported that Hamas boss Khaled Meshaal had met in Yemen with Abd Majid al-Zindani, who had been designated a terrorist by the Treasury Department due to his links with al-Qaida.
"Hamas's sympathies for bin Laden hold a different meaning now than they did a week ago," Schanzer writes, adding that the deal raises questions about whether Washington should recognize a Palestinian Authority unity government comprised of Hamas and Fatah.
If Hamas' "grisly record of suicide bombings since its inception in 1988 were not enough, the aforementioned ties between Hamas and al Qaeda should serve as further warning about the terror group that now appears to have a controlling stake in the Palestinian Authority," Schanzer concludes.
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