Hamas denies taking part in Egypt, Syria, fighting

Hamas denies taking part in Egypt, Syria, fighting

Gaza City (Palestinian Territories) (AFP) - The Gaza Strip's Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniya on Saturday denied reports that his Islamist militant group was involved in fighting in the neighbouring Egyptian Sinai or in Syria.

"We did not interfere in the affairs of any country and are not involved in the events or differences or internal conflicts of any country," Haniya said.

"This (is) our position regarding what has happened and is happening in Syria, Egypt, Lebanon and all Arab and Islamic countries," he said.

"We are not involved in any incident," he added. "Neither in the Sinai or elsewhere. We only act in the Palestinian arena and our guns are turned only toward the Zionist enemy."

He called on the media to stop their "baseless" accusations against Hamas, which he said "is proud to have taken from its first day a principled and moral position for the people and their suffering and their right to freedom, democracy and dignity."

Haniya made the remarks during a speech marking two years since captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was exchanged for 1,027 Palestinian prisoners, feted in Gaza as a victory for the "resistance."

Relations between Cairo and Hamas have deteriorated since July 3, when the Egyptian army ousted president Mohamed Morsi, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood in which Hamas has its roots.

Since then, the Egyptian army has destroyed hundreds of smuggling tunnels under the border with the Gaza Strip , which supplied the Palestinian territory with food and construction materials.

On Friday Gazans said they received messages from the Israeli army seeking to undermine support for Hamas, accusing it of failing to provide for civilians.

"Know that Hamas is spending millions of dollars on tunnels used for hostile and terrorist acts against the state of Israel," the messages said, according to Palestinians.

"This money should have gone to infrastructure, education and health projects."

A military spokeswoman on Saturday confirmed to AFP that the army sent the text and telephone messages.

"We feel that it is important that the people of Gaza are aware of how the warped leadership of Hamas chooses the path of terror rather than the path of civil development," she quoted chief spokesman Lt. Col Peter Lerner as saying.