Dubai, Mar. 29 (NNN): Already seen as a hardliner and a firebrand orator, the new leader of the Palestinian militant group Hamas, Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi has denounced American President George Walker Bush as an "enemy of Muslims" across the world.
Aziz al-Rantissi, a 56-year-old doctor, was named leader in Gaza after Israel assassinated Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin last Monday.
Speaking at the Islamic University in Gaza on Sunday, Aziz al-Rantissi said he was not surprised that the US vetoed a UN Security Council resolution condemning the missile strike which killed Sheikh Yassin.
"[Sheikh Yassin] said the war of God continues against them and I can see the victory coming up from the land of Palestine by the hand of Hamas", he said.
Israeli government spokesman Avi Pazner has described Aziz al-Rantissi as "one of the most extreme members of Hamas".
Questioned over the killing of Sheikh Yassin last week, President Bush said that Israel had a "right to defend itself from terror" - but should also bear in mind the consequences.
Following the Sheikh's assassination, President Bush reiterated his support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute and for a concerted fight against terror.
Aziz al-Rantissi has been imprisoned in the past by both Israel and by Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority. In 2003, he survived an Israeli assassination bid similar to one which killed Sheikh Yassin.
It is worth mentioning here that Sheikh Yassin, the group's spiritual head, was killed in an Israeli air strike as he returned from a mosque in Gaza City at daybreak.
Seven others were killed and many wounded in the attack.
Israel accused Sheikh Yassin of ordering Hamas suicide bombings which killed hundreds of Israelis.
In the wake of his death, the words of Hamas leaders are being watched very closely for any sign of a further hardening of the organisation's line, or that it might even strike at targets in the West.
However, long-time observers of Hamas in Gaza say that it would be wrong to read too much into Dr Rantissi's speech as he and other Hamas leaders have made this kind of rhetorical attack on the US many times before, our correspondent reports.
Hamas has always made it clear that its military target is Israel and Israel alone.