Page last updated at 15:58 GMT, Tuesday, 4 August 2009 16:58 UK

Hamas-funded film opens in Gaza

By Sebastian Usher
Arab affairs editor, BBC News

A Palestinian man walks past a billboard advertising the film "Emad Akel", the first motion picture production of the Islamic group Hamas
A poster advertises the new film about a young Hamas militant

The first film backed by the Palestinian militant group Hamas is showing in cinemas in Gaza.

It tells the story of Hamas member Imad Aqel, who led many attacks on Israel before he was killed in 1993.

The making of the film is a sign of how Hamas is increasingly trying to extend its influence through cultural as well as political and military means.

Israel, the US and EU say Hamas is a terrorist group. Its supporters say it defends Palestinians from occupation.

Media work

Imad Aqel was a young Hamas militant regarded as a hero in Gaza and a terrorist in Israel.

To kill Israeli soldiers is to worship God
Line from new Hamas-funded film

He was involved in a number of attacks on Israeli targets in the early 1990s.

Israel holds him responsible for the killing of 13 soldiers and settlers.

His hideout in Gaza was finally surrounded by Israeli forces in 1993 and he was killed at the age of 22.

Hamas has chosen his life story as the subject of the first feature film that it has funded.

The film cost $120,000 (£71,000) and was written by a senior Hamas member.

Newspaper reports say the line that has brought the biggest cheer from the audience is when one of the characters declares: "To kill Israeli soldiers is to worship God".

The film was shot over several months last year. Since then, four of the actors have been killed in an offensive Israel launched against Hamas in Gaza back in January.

The director has said he hopes to enter the film for the Cannes Festival, although there is no indication that Cannes would accept it.

Hamas already has a formidable media operation - it runs a television station, a radio network and several newspapers.

It sponsors arts festivals, plays and poems, most of which highlight the harshness of Gazan life.

The financing of this film is the latest development in what Hamas calls its "culture of resistance".

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