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Hamas Rejects al-Qaida Criticism of Palestinian Unity Government

The Islamic militant group Hamas, which heads the Palestinian Authority, has rejected criticism from al-Qaida, the group responsible for the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the United States. As Robert Berger reports from VOA's Jerusalem bureau, Hamas is under fire for joining forces with Palestinian moderates.

Responding to bitter criticism from al-Qaida, Hamas issued a statement saying it remains committed to the destruction of Israel. "We will continue the path of Jihad and resistance until the liberation of all of Palestine," the statement said.

Al-Qaida's second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahri had blasted Hamas for joining a national unity government with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas - a moderate backed by the United States and Israel.

"Hamas went to a picnic with the U.S. Satan, and has surrendered most of Palestine to the Jews," al-Zawahri said. In an audio recording posted on the Internet, he said the unity government is an American plot to stop the jihad against "the Crusader-Zionist campaign"- a reference to the U.S. and Israel.

In its statement, Hamas said it remains a movement of resistance and a seeker of martyrdom. Hamas spokesman Ghazi Hamad told Israel Radio that resistance is legitimate.

Hamad said the Palestinians are living under occupation in the West Bank and Gaza and do not have any rights. Therefore, he said Hamas would not accept international demands to recognize Israel's right to exist - a key condition for lifting crippling western sanctions on the Palestinian Authority.

Hamas officials also rejected al-Qaida's criticism of the unity government, saying it was the only way to avoid a Palestinian civil war.

The United States, Britain, and the European Union consider al-Qaida and Hamas terrorist organizations.