The Gaza Strip’s Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniyeh has denied reports that his 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,” Haniyeh said on Saturday.
“This [is] our position regarding … Syria, Egypt, Lebanon and all Arab and Islamic countries,” he said.
“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”.
Haniyeh 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 toppled 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.
Meanwhile, on Friday Gazans said they received messages from the Israeli army accusing Hamas 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 told 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,” the spokesman said.
The Israel army said last week it had found a concrete tunnel running from inside Gaza into Israeli terriroty. Israel banned imports of building materials into Gaza upon its discovery.