Hamas leaders in the Gaza Strip have condemned the murder of an Italian peace campaigner by an extremist group linked to al-Qaeda.
A Jihadist Salafi faction said it killed Vittorio Arrigoni because Hamas had refused to release its leader from detention.
Arrigoni arrived in the Gaza Strip in August 2008 on an aid boat bringing supplies through the Israeli blockade of the enclave. He had lived there ever since campaigning for Palestinian rights with the International Solidarity Movement.
Hamas vehemently opposes Salafists who espouse an extreme form of Islam and want Sharia law introduced.
A spokesman for the Hamas interior ministry, Ihab Hussein, told a press conference: “The Palestinian government condemns this ugly crime which does not reflect our morals and traditions. We will continue to pursue all members of this group, arrest them and implement the law against them.”
The 36-year-old had been held by the militant group for just a few hours. Hamas security forces discovered where he was being kept but he was already dead when they arrived.
One of Arrigoni’s fellow peace campaigners said: “He kind of feels that this is home. He wanted to go home to see his father but at the same time didn’t want to leave here, with the recent escalation he just wanted to be here in case something would happen.’
Hamas said the killing could jeopardise further solidarity missions, like the aid flotillas that have tried to break the Israeli blockade around the Gaza Strip.
Two men have been arrested in connection with the murder.