Jerusalem: Vowing liberate whole of
Palestine from Israeli clutches, Hamas leader Ismail
Haniyeh in a fiery speech on Monday told thousands of Palestinians
that the Islamist faction`s control over the Gaza Strip
is "just a step" towards their goal.
War ravaged and poverty stricken Gaza City was today
draped in the Hamas`s green flag as tens and thousands of
Palestinians rallied to express `faith` for the outfit, which
celebrated its 22nd year of formation.
"This movement, with the help of the militant factions
liberated the Gaza Strip, and we say, brothers and sisters, we
will not be satisfied with Gaza. Hamas looks toward the whole
of Palestine, the liberation of the Strip is just a step to
liberating all of Palestine," Hainyeh added.
We will never give up on Palestine from the river to
the sea, Haniya told the crowd, referring to the pre-1948
borders of the British Palestine Mandate between the
Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River.
The speech was seen by many in Fatah controlled West
Bank as one against efforts towards reconciliation. "It seems
Hamas wants to continue to divide us and would try to create
disturbances in the West Bank. We would fight hard to prevent
extremism from entering the West Bank", a young Fatah leader,
who did not want to be named," said.
Israel Radio quoted Hamas sources as saying that
captured IDF soldier Gilad Schalit would only see the light of
day when Israel acquiesces to the Islamist group`s demands and
releases the prisoners that it has demanded.
Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, not recognised by
most of the international community, waved Palestinian and
Hamas flags as he took over the stage with Mahmoud Zahar, seen
as an extreme hardliner in the Islamist movement. The leaders
promised a "surprise," although they gave no hints as to what
that might be.
"Gaza is free. Gaza is steadfast," shouted a male
singing troupe, whose members wore military camouflage.
In western Gaza, dozens of motorcyclists with green
Hamas flags drove through the main street while Hamas won a
major victory in parliamentary polls in January 2006, ousting
Fatah, which had dominated Palestinian politics under Yasser
Arafat but the world community did not recognise it
government calling upon the movement to renounce violence,
accept all treaties signed between Israel and the PLO and
Hamas had taken control of the Gaza coastal strip
following five days of bloody clashes in June 2007 against
security forces loyal to rival Fatah faction that now controls
only the West Bank.
A massive three week military offensive launched by
Israel in December last year leading to death to more than
thousand of Palestinian and huge loss of property seems to
hardly made a dent in Hamas`s popularity in the coastal Strip.
Hamas leaders have shown that power hasn`t corrupted
them and they continue to care for the masses and stand by
them. With Fatah it was a different story.
Despite adverse conditions we continue to have faith
in Hamas", a supporter told a news agency on conditions of anonymity.
In a display of support that matched last year`s
rally, a massive crowd packed an outdoor square where a huge
banner draped over the wall of a building showed a picture Al
Aqsa shrine and photos of Hamas leaders.
The military wing of the movement, the Iz al-Din
al-Qassam brigades, held a parade. Commentators were busy
trying to guess the nature of the "surprise" promised by the
Some suggested that it might be a breakthrough in the
prisoner exchange negotiations, but others said it was more
likely that Hamas would unveil a new weapon system allegedly
able to hit key targets in Israel, such as Tel Aviv.
Hamas leaders gave fiery speeches, bands performed
and scout troops marched in processions during the anniversary
Israel first sealed the coastal Strip in June 2006
after Hamas-allied militants captured an Israeli soldier,
It further tightened its noose around Gaza when
Hamas overran the coastal strip, ousting forces loyal to
Western-backed Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
The 1.5 million strong community in Gaza has since
then been surviving on humanitarian packages sent by Israel
and relying on a network of tunnels to smuggle in food and
other necessary articles from Egypt.
As per UN agencies, almost seventy percent of Gazans
today live below poverty line and the territory may soon face
a major humanitarian crisis with the local infrastructure on
the verge of breaking down.