October 17, 2008 / 1:25 PM / 9 years ago

Financial crisis is divine punishment for U.S.: Hamas

<p>Ismail Haniyeh talks to senior Hamas leader Sayed Seyam (R) before giving a speech in Gaza, March 12, 2008.Suhaib Salem</p>

GAZA (Reuters) - The leader of the Palestinian Islamic group Hamas said on Friday that the global financial meltdown was God's way of punishing the United States for its support of Israel and its occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan.

"We see it as God's punishment for the criminals (U.S. and its Western allies). Nothing is more unjust than occupying an Islamic state. Nothing is more unjust than keeping the Palestinian people under occupation for over 60 years," Ismail Haniyeh told worshippers before Friday prayers in the Gaza Strip.

A financial crisis has hit markets across the world, forcing governments to mount bank bail-outs and fanning fears of recession, especially in the West.

Haniyeh's Islamist group is shunned by Israel and the United States for refusing to renounce violence and recognize interim Israeli-Palestinian agreements after it won a parliamentary election two years ago.

Following Hamas's election victory, Israel imposed an economic blockade on Gaza, which Hamas seized last year after routing Fatah forces loyal to Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

"They deprived our people of money and now God has deprived them of money. They besieged our people and now they are besieged by the punishment of God," Haniyeh said.

Egypt is hosting a summit on November 9 to try to heal the schism between Hamas and Fatah and forge consensus among the over thirteen factions that make up the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in preparation for new elections.

Writing by Nidal al-Mughrabi, Editing by Joseph Nasr and Elizabeth Piper

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