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Last Updated: Monday, 9 January 2006, 21:08 GMT
Hamas launches TV station in Gaza
Hamas rally
Hamas is set to challenge Fatah at the parliamentary elections
The Palestinian militant group Hamas has launched a new TV station to spread the organisation's message.

Named al-Aqsa after the mosque in Jerusalem, the Gaza-based channel plans to air programmes on political and social ideas drawn from the Koran.

The group aims to expand the TV operation significantly and hopes to enter satellite broadcasting.

The BBC's Alan Johnston in Gaza says the move into TV marks one more stage in the steady rise of Hamas.

The group is now strong enough to pose a major challenge to the ruling Fatah political party in the parliamentary election campaign.

'Political vision'

A Hamas leader in Gaza said the station will face a trial period for three to six months.

The station aims to carry the group's message to the Palestinian people and to the world, Fathi Hamad said.

"The aim of this step is to establish Islamic culture and an ideological, scientific and political vision that is in tandem with the spirit of Islam, and to spread information about important issues," he added.

The first broadcast on Sunday aired a half-hour reading of the Muslim holy book, but Hamas hopes to broadcast news and documentary programmes on the station in the coming months.

The operation will also present Hamas' interpretation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Hamas wants an end to the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories and calls for the destruction of the state of Israel.

The Hamas radio station in Gaza was rocketed by Israeli helicopters 18 months ago, and the group has not yet revealed its new TV channel's location.

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