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  1. Hamas instructs Muslims to reply if U.S. wages war
    New York Times

    JERUSALEM -- The spiritual leader of the Palestinian group Hamas instructed Muslims worldwide on Friday to retaliate against "Western interests" if the United States makes war on Iraq.

    In an open letter released Friday, the Hamas leader, Sheik Ahmed Yassin, wrote, "Muslims should threaten Western interests and strike them everywhere." Hamas leaders had previously said they would not widen their conflict with Israel to focus on Americans and other Westerners.

    Calling an attack on Iraq part of "a crusaders' war" against Islam by "the envious west and the U.S. first among them," Sheik Yassin urged, "As they fight us, we have to fight them."

    Yassin also called for a boycott of products from the United States and its allies.

    The letter came as Hamas was already flexing its muscles within Palestinian society, increasing longstanding tension with Yasser Arafat, the Palestinian leader, and with his Fatah faction, which is less religious than Hamas.

    On Friday, hundreds of Palestinians carrying posters of Saddam Hussein marched in Gaza City as part of a Hamas-sponsored protest of U.S. war plans.

    Hamas, which is on the Bush administration's list of terrorist organizations, recently rejected an effort supported by Fatah leaders and Egypt to unilaterally declare a limited cease-fire in the conflict with Israel. In his letter, Yassin repeated his intention to destroy "this cancer that is called Israel."

    Recently, the Palestinian Authority has taken some steps to contain Hamas violence, heightening friction between the factions, Palestinian officials and Western diplomats said.

    In the northern Gaza Strip, the Palestinian Authority's security forces this week began cracking down on efforts by Hamas to fire crude rockets over the boundary with Israel. The move followed increasingly devastating Israeli raids in what Israel called reprisals for the rocket attacks, which have not caused any fatalities

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