JERUSALEM, May 12 (Reuters) - Israel
on Wednesday strongly criticized Russian President Dmitry Medvedev for meeting with the leader of the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas
a day earlier in Damascus.
Israel's foreign ministry said in a statement it was deeply disappointed that Medvedev, together with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, met the group's leader Khaled Meshaal, who lives in exile.
It is a terror organisation in every way, with a declared aim of destroying the state of Israel. Hamas is responsible for the murder of hundreds of innocent civilians, the ministry said.
Russia, together with the United States, European Union and United Nations, make up a quartet of Middle East mediators. The United States, European Union and Israel consider Hamas a terrorist organisation.
But Moscow has maintained contact with the Islamist group.
During the meeting with Meshaal, Medvedev called for the quick release of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip
for nearly four years. Hamas later dismissed the Russian pressure and said Shalit will not be set free without an honorable prisoner exchange deal.
Hamas has demanded Israel release hundreds of jailed Palestinian in return for Shalit, captured by Gaza militants in 2006 in a cross-border raid.
Hamas later seized control of the Gaza Strip in 2007 from Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas
. The Islamist group opposes Abbas' peace moves with the Jewish state.
The Israeli foreign ministry said enlightened countries cannot divide terrorists into good and bad depending to geography ... Israel sees no difference between Hamas terror against Israel and Chechen terror against Russia.
Israel has always stood beside Russia in its fight against Chechen terror, and that is exactly what we would expect regarding Hamas terror against Israel, it said. (Writing by Ari Rabinovitch; Editing by Jon Hemming)