GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip – A leader of the Palestinian militant group Hamas on Saturday called President Bush an enemy of Islam because the U.S. government froze the assets of Hamas leaders in response to a suicide bombing of a bus in Jerusalem.
Speaking to Dubai-based Al-Arabiya TV, Abdel Aziz Rantisi called the action “a theft of Muslim money by the Americans” and said the frozen money doesn’t belong to Hamas.
“Hamas does not have any money in the U.S., Europe or even in the Arab states. President Bush has become Islam’s biggest enemy,” Rantisi said in the interview.
On Friday, the United States froze the assets of six Hamas leaders, including Rantisi, an aide to Sheik Ahmed Yassin, the group’s spiritual leader. The United States also froze the assets of five European-based organizations that it said raise money for the radical Palestinian group.
Bush said he ordered the assets frozen because Hamas claimed responsibility for Tuesday’s suicide attack on a packed bus in Jerusalem that killed 20 people, including six children.
Hamas has vowed revenge for an Israeli helicopter attack on Thursday that killed Ismail Abu Shanab, one of its most senior figures. Rantisi survived an Israeli rocket attack on his car in June.
The Lebanese representative of the militant group on Saturday urged European nations to reject U.S. demands to freeze the funds of Hamas officials and pro-Palestinian charities. “We call on the countries that the Americans are trying to pressure not to respond to the pressure,” Osama Hamdan said in a statement, adding that the “American decisions … are based on Israel’s interests.”
A similar call was issued by one of the charities named by the U.S. government, the Sanabel Endowment for Relief and Development, which denied having links to Hamas and expressed “astonishment at the unjustified” freeze.