GAZA (Reuters) – The founder of the militant Palestinian group Hamas urged Muslims on Friday to attack Western interests around the world if the United States launches a war on Iraq.
“It’s a Crusaders’s aggression, a Crusaders’s war and an occupation,” Sheikh Ahmed Yassin said of a possible U.S.-led military campaign against Iraq.
“Muslims will have to threaten and strike Western interests, and hit them everywhere,” Yassin wrote in an open letter.
“As they fight us, we have to fight them and as they threaten our interests, we have to threaten their interests,” he said.
Hamas, a fundamentalist Islamic group on the U.S. government’s list of terrorist organizations, has killed hundreds of people in suicide bombings in Israel during the 28-month-old Palestinian uprising for statehood.
But the group insists it only operates in Israel and in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, and that it does not target Westerners.
Yassin, who brands the United States an enemy, called upon Muslims in the U.S. armed forces to disobey any order to attack Iraq.
“It is forbidden for them to participate in the killing of other Muslims,” he said.
After Friday prayers in Gaza City, the wheelchair-bound Yassin led a rally against any U.S. war on Iraq over its alleged weapons of mass destruction.
Some 1,500 Palestinian demonstrators marched through the city, holding green Hamas flags and posters of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
Loudspeakers sounded a call for Iraqis to emulate Palestinian suicide bombers by donning explosives belts “to fight the invaders.”
Palestinians hold regular rallies in Gaza Strip and the West Bank in support of Iraq, whose financial aid to families of those killed by Israel during the uprising has boosted Saddam’s image in the two areas.
Yassin also called on Arabs and Muslims to boycott U.S. goods and “close their doors” against the United States and its allies and not to offer them assistance in the war against Iraq.
“Any regime that does that is a sinner,” Yassin said in a copy of the letter obtained by Reuters.