Hamas Calls Bush 'Enemy Of God'

Dr. Abdel Aziz Rantisi, right, the new leader of Hamas in Gaza, holds a young boy following a speech at the Islamic University in Gaza City, Sunday, March 28, 2004. United States President George W. Bush is the enemy of God and Islam, the new Hamas chief in Gaza said Sunday, declaring that God's war against the United States and Israel was ongoing. AP

The new leader of the militant group Hamas on Sunday called President Bush the enemy of Islam and said that "God declared war" against Bush, the United States and Israel.

In a speech at Gaza's Islamic University, Hamas leader Abdel Aziz Rantisi said he was not surprised that the United States vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning Israel's assassination on Monday of Hamas spiritual leader Sheik Ahmed Yassin.

"We knew that Bush is the enemy of God, the enemy of Islam and Muslims. America declared war against God. Sharon declared war against God and God declared war against America, Bush and Sharon," Rantisi said. "The war of God continues against them and I can see the victory coming up from the land of Palestine by the hand of Hamas."

Despite the harsh rhetoric, Rantisi has backed away from Hamas threats to carry out revenge attacks against the United States in response to the assassination.

But this kind of rhetoric could serve as inspiration for other Islamic militant groups - such as al Qaeda - to strike at America, reports CBS News Correspondent Robert Berger.

The United States lists Hamas as a terrorist organization. The militant group has carried out many of the suicide bombings that have killed more than 450 people in the current conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

In other major developments in the Middle East:

  • Israel's chief prosecutor has recommended indicting Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on bribery charges. An Israeli businessman allegedly paid Sharon $700,000 to promote real estate deals a few years ago when he was foreign minister. A final decision on an indictment rests with the attorney general, who is expected to rule within a month. If Sharon is indicted, he could be forced to resign.

  • Erroneous Israeli warnings about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction ahead of last year's U.S.-led invasion were based on speculation, not fact, Israeli parliamentary investigators said Sunday, but stressed that intelligence agencies had not tried to mislead Western allies. A report released Sunday said Israeli intelligence concluded there was a high probability that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction, despite little evidence backing that assessment, the report said. Estimates of Iraq's weapons arsenal also increased inexplicably ahead of the war, the report found. Still, the report stressed that the intelligence agencies did not deliberately mislead Israeli officials or try to push the United States into war.


  • Egypt offered Sunday to host an Arab summit that was abruptly canceled because of differences over Israel and a U.S.-backed plan on Middle East democracy, but the Arab League said there were no immediate plans for a new meeting. Arab leaders had hoped to use the conference in the Tunisian capital, Tunis, to relaunch a Saudi-crafted peace initiative to Israel and to submit their own proposals for political reforms in response to U.S. calls for greater freedoms. The summit had been scheduled to begin Monday but was scrapped late Saturday.

    Israel is taking the Hamas threats seriously, including statements that Sharon and other Israeli officials are legitimate targets.

    Israel has increased security and assigned armored Cadillacs to several Cabinet ministers, one minister said on condition of anonymity. The minister refused to say how many armored cars were provided, but said Likud Party hard-liner, Gideon Ezra, was among those who received one.

    In the past, Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a former prime minister, used an armored car on occasion. The only government officials who regularly drive in armored cars are Sharon and Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz.

    Since Yassin's assassination, Israeli has tightened security measures. Israeli border patrol, troops and police have been sent into the streets, setting up roadblocks and checking IDs randomly. Cafes, buses and malls emptied out for several days as Israelis braced for retaliation.

    Nine Israeli lawmakers have been given 24-hour protection, among them Likud hard-liners Yuval Steinitz and Ehud Yatom.

    Rabbis, including Israel's current and former chief rabbis, have been assigned security guards, said a security official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

    Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, a prominent religious leader and founder of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, moved his weekly Saturday night Bible study class to a secret location due to reported intelligence warnings that militants are targeting rabbis.

    Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Moshe Yaalon and other senior generals have also been assigned additional bodyguards, officials said.

    Israel's Foreign Ministry increased security at embassies, consulates and missions abroad following the assassination. Israeli diplomats at missions in Qatar and Mauritania were brought home a week earlier than scheduled for the Jewish holiday of Passover.

    In a West Bank village near Hebron, Israeli soldiers shot and killed a Palestinian fugitive during an arrest operation Sunday, the army said. The fugitive, Jamal Atel, was a member of the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, a militant group linked to Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement. Atel fled to the roof of his house when the army came to arrest him, and soldiers shot and killed him, the army said.
    • Jaime Holguin

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