GAZA CITY: The militant Hamas group is distancing itself from a leader who called for the slaughter of Jews worldwide.
In a statement Monday, the Islamist movement said recent remarks by Fathi Hammad, a member of its politburo, “don’t represent the movement’s official positions.”
Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, said Hammad’s remarks conflicted with its amended charter that restricted Hamas’s conflict to the Israeli occupation, “not the Jews or their religion,” according to the rare statement.
Speaking to demonstrators in Gaza on Friday, Hammad called for attacks on “every Jew on the globe.”
“If this siege is not undone, we will explode in the face of our enemies, with God’s permission. The explosion is not only going to be in Gaza but also in the West Bank and abroad, God willing,” Hamad said.
“But our brothers outside are preparing, trying to prepare, warming up.”
He continued: “Seven million Palestinians outside, enough warming up, you have Jews with you in every place. You should attack every Jew possible in all the world and kill them.”
His speech was captured on video and shared on social media.
Since March 2018, Palestinians have been taking part in Hamas-backed protests and clashes along the Gaza-Israel border in part against the Jewish state’s crippling blockade of Gaza.
At least 295 Palestinians and seven Israelis have since been killed in Gaza-related violence.
The Israeli toll recently rose to seven after an 89-year-old woman who fell while running for a bomb shelter during a flare-up of violence in May died of her injuries, according to Israel’s foreign ministry.
Hamas is considered a terrorist organization by the United States, European Union and others.
Ofir Gendelman, a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said the comments showed “what Hamas is about.”
“Hamas is behind the riots on the Gaza border... Hamas wants to murder Jews worldwide,” Gendelman said on Twitter.
“Now you know why we protect the border with Gaza from Hamas.”
Saeb Erekat, secretary general of the West Bank-based Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which unlike Hamas has recognized Israel, condemned Hamad’s comments.
“The just values of the Palestinian cause include love for freedom, justice and equality. The repugnant statement of Hamas leader Mr. Fathi Hamad about Jews doesn’t represent any of them,” he tweeted.
'Dangerous, repugnant and inciteful statement'
United Nations envoy Nickolay Mladenov also condemned the comments, labelling them a “dangerous, repugnant and inciteful statement! It must to be clearly condemned by ALL.”
In a statement later Monday, Hamas distanced itself from Hamad’s words.
“These comments do not represent the official positions of the movement and its consistent, adopted policies, which say our conflict is with the (Israeli) occupation which occupied our land and sullies our holy places and not a conflict with Jews across the world or Judaism as a religion,” it said.
Hamad issued his own statement, saying he was committed to the Hamas charter focused on “resistance against the Zionist occupation” of Palestinian land.
“Our resistance to the occupation will continue by all means, through arms or through the popular and peaceful struggle,” he said.
Hamas seized control of Gaza from the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority in a 2007 near civil war.
Israel and Hamas have fought three wars in Gaza since 2008.
Israel says its blockade of the territory is necessary to isolate Hamas and keep it from obtaining weapons or material to make them.
Critics say it amounts to collective punishment of Gaza’s two million residents and creates poverty that can feed extremism.