GAZA - The audience in Gaza clapped and cheered as the actor delivered the film's most memorable line.

"To kill Israeli soldiers is to worship God."

Imad Aqel, which had its premiere on Saturday, is the first feature film produced by Hamas. 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.

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

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

The film cost about R93 0451 and was written by Mahmoud al-Zahar, a senior leader of Hamas.

Aqel was killed aged 22 by Israeli soldiers who surrounded his hide-out in Gaza in 1993.

Four of the actors in the film were later killed in the 22-day offensive that Israel launched in Gaza last December.

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

The film is Hamas' latest foray into the mass media. It owns a satellite TV channel, a radio station and several newspapers. - Reuters