The United States has expressed outrage at remarks by Palestinian Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh condemning the U.S. killing of Osama bin Laden. The U.S. comments Tuesday came on the eve of an expected reconciliation deal between the militant Hamas and the mainstream Palestinian Fatah movement.
The comments by Haniyeh, who is prime minister of the Hamas administration in Gaza, only underscored U.S. concerns about an impending Hamas-Fatah reconciliation deal that could force an end to U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority.
Speaking in Gaza Monday, the Hamas chief said his organization condemns any killing of a Muslim 'holy warrior.' He said the operation in Pakistan was part of a U.S. policy of murder and repression.
Hamas, like al-Qaida, is listed by the State Department as a terrorist organization. At a news briefing, State Department Acting Deputy Spokesman Mark Toner said Haniyeh’s remarks on bin Laden were an outrage.
"They’re outrageous. It goes without saying bin Laden was a murderer and terrorist," he said. "He ordered the killings of thousands of innocent men, women and children... many of whom were Muslim. He did not die a martyr. He died hiding in a mansion, or a compound, far away from the violence that was carried out in his name."
Hamas and Fatah are expected to sign an Egyptian-brokered reconciliation accord in Cairo Wednesday, aimed at ending the split in Palestinian ranks that began in 2007 when Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip.
The United States has since provided hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority of President Mahmoud Abbas based in the West Bank.
A 2006 act of Congress conditions U.S. aid on a requirement that Palestinian recipients renounce violence and recognize Israel’s right to exist. Lawmakers of both parties in Washington are calling for an aid cut-off to a Fatah-Hamas unity government.
Spokesman Toner said the Obama administration is awaiting developments in Cairo. He said that to be part of regional peacemaking, Hamas must accept terms set down in 2003 by the international Middle East Quartet.
"If Hamas wants to play a role in the political process, then it needs to abide by the Quartet principles," he said. "And those have been quite clear. It needs to accept those principles, which are renouncing violent and terrorism, recognizing Israel’s right to exist, and abiding by previous diplomatic agreements."
Toner said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton discussed the impending deal in telephone calls Monday with Mr. Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Officials here noted that previous attempts at Fatah-Hamas reconciliation have broken down.
Reports from Cairo say that to stave off an aid ban, the two parties may form a cabinet of technocrats without affiliation with either faction that would run the Palestinian Authority until new elections.