Hamas goes to the movies

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The Independent Online

The audience in the Gaza Strip clapped and cheered as the actor delivered the movie's most memorable line – "To kill Israeli soldiers is to worship God".

Imad Aqel, which premiered at the weekend, is the first feature film produced by the Islamist Hamas movement and the title is the name of a Palestinian militant whom Israel held accountable for the deaths of 13 soldiers and settlers.

In accordance with strict Muslim tradition, men and women sat in separate sections of the theatre to view what Hamas officials termed the "Cinema of Resistance", referring to what it describes as a fight against Israeli occupation.

The movie is Hamas's latest foray into the mass media – it owns a satellite TV channel, a radio station and several newspapers.

Imad Aqel was filmed on a set built inside the former Jewish settlement of Ganei Tal in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.

It depicts Hamas's founding in the 1980s, attacks Mr Aqel mounted on the Israeli military in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and the signing of the Oslo peace accord between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organisation in 1993.

The film cost $120,000 (£70,000) and was written by Mahmoud al-Zahar, a senior leader of Hamas, which the West regards as a terrorist group and shuns because of its refusal to renounce violence, recognise Israel and accept existing interim peace deals.

Mr Aqel was killed at the age of 22 by Israeli soldiers who surrounded his hideout in Gaza in 1993.

Four of the actors in the film, which took several months to make, were later killed in the 22-day offensive Israel launched in the Gaza Strip last December with the declared aim of halting cross-border rocket attacks by Palestinian militants.

Majed Jendeya, the movie's German-trained director, said he hoped to screen the film at the Cannes film festival in France.

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