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Last Updated: Saturday, 27 August 2005, 04:04 GMT 05:04 UK
Wanted Hamas leader issues video
A Palestinian boy waves a flag close to Netzarim settlement in Gaza
Palestinians have been celebrating the withdrawal of Israel from Gaza
Palestinian militant group Hamas has released a videotape it says is of a fugitive bomb-maker wanted by Israel.

The man, who identifies himself as Mohammed Deif, taunts Israel over its withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, saying the country has been humiliated.

And he warns Palestinian officials against ending what he calls the armed struggle, but urges them to resolve internal differences through dialogue.

Mohammed Deif has topped Israel's most wanted list for years.

They hold him personally responsible for the deaths of dozens of people in suicide bombings since 1996.

He is a shadowy figure who has survived several Israeli attempts to kill him, including an air strike on his car two years ago. The last known photo of him dates back to the 1980s.

'Liberation of Gaza'

In his message, he tells Israel: "You have occupied our land. Now you are leaving Gaza humiliated."

He praises the hundreds of Palestinian militants who have died in attacks on Israelis, saying they helped to bring about the disengagement.

Press photo of Mohammed Deif

"Without this jihad and this steadfastness, we did not achieve the liberation of the Gaza Strip," he says.

And to the Palestinian Authority he suggests: "We should keep the arms of resistance raised side by side with the political work and we warn against harming this weapon that liberated Gaza.

"Let it continue to be active and operational to liberate the rest of our homeland".

But, he urges the various Palestinian factions to resolve their differences peacefully.

"We want to use dialogue to solve any differences in order to protect our Palestinian blood and our national achievement."

Cause a stir

In the tape - which is said to be of high quality and stamped with the logo of Hamas' military wing - Mohammed Deif sits in a chair but his face is covered by a dark shadow. It gives no indication of his whereabouts.

Analysts say the videotape is likely to cause a stir in Israel, particularly among opponents of the withdrawal from Gaza and the four West Bank settlements, which ended this week.

They say it is a surrender to Palestinian violence, and fear it will encourage Palestinian militants to step up attacks, particularly in the occupied West Bank.

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has called on militant groups such as Hamas to lay down their weapons now that the withdrawal is complete.

But he has so far rejected Israeli demands to directly confront such groups, saying he wants to persuade them to choose dialogue with Israel.

His Fatah movement faces a strong challenge from Hamas in parliamentary elections due in January.


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