GAZA CITY (CNN) — New Hamas leader Abdel Aziz Rantisi delivered a fiery speech at a memorial service Sunday for his slain predecessor, blasting Israel for its Palestinian policies and calling U.S. President Bush “an enemy of Muslims.”
“Bush is the enemy of God, the enemy of Islam, an enemy of Muslims,” Rantisi said at Gaza’s Islamic University, where thousands had gathered to remember Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, who — along with seven others — was killed in a targeted Israeli airstrike on Monday.
He said it came as no surprise that the United States — which he said consistently sides with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s government — vetoed a United Nations’ resolution condemning the killing of Yassin.
“America declared war against God. Sharon declared war against God and God declared war against America, Bush and Sharon,” Rantisi said. “The war of God continues against them and I can see the victory coming up from the land of Palestine by the hand of Hamas.”
It marked the first time Rantisi and other Hamas leaders have appeared in public in days. Israel has said it reserves the right to kill any of the Hamas leaders at any time for the group’s terrorist attacks against Israelis.
Hamas, a Palestinian Islamic fundamentalist organization, has a military wing, Izzedine al Qassam, that has carried out terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians as well as attacks against the Israeli military.
Israel blames Hamas for more than 400 attacks that have killed 377 Israelis since the current Palestinian uprising began in September 2000.
Sharon and other top government officials have defended the killing of Yassin and said they will do whatever it takes to protect Israel.
In another development Sunday, an Israeli military incursion into the West Bank city of Hebron left one Palestinian man dead, Palestinian and Israeli sources said.
Israel Defense Forces said its troops surrounded the home of a wanted Palestinian and called for him to surrender. He emerged on the rooftop and Israeli troops opened fire, killing him, the IDF said.
Israeli military sources said forces found false identification documents and Israeli military uniforms in his house, and said that he intended to carry out a suicide attack.
The incursion was the latest military move by Israel, which has decided to step up operations against Palestinian terrorists in the West Bank and Gaza after terrorist suicide bombings in Jerusalem on February 22 and in Ashdod, Israel, on March 14. The Israeli incursions have resulted in the deaths of several Palestinian bystanders.
Israeli attacks and those of Palestinian terrorists have blocked peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority aimed at reviving the Mideast peace process, specifically, movement on the so-called “road map” for Mideast peace.
The plan — backed by the United States, the European Union, the United Nations and Russia — calls for steps by both sides aimed at ending the conflict and establishing an independent Palestinian state by 2005. The first phase of the plan calls on Palestinians to end their attacks and for Israel to freeze Jewish settlement activity in the Palestinian territories and to dismantle settlements erected there since March 2001.
Israel blames Palestinian Authority leaders for not influencing terrorist groups to end the attacks on Israeli targets.