On 20th anniversary, Hamas vows never to recognize Israel
More than 200,000 Palestinians rallied yesterday in Gaza City to mark the Hamas movement's 20th anniversary, where deposed Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniyeh said that whoever declares he will never recognize Israel earns "the people's love." The crowd chanted: "We will never recognize Israel."
In a fiery speech, Haniyeh cited the achievements of Hamas and "the resistance" throughout the region. He cited Israel's withdrawal from south Lebanon in 2000 and from Gaza in 2005, and the kidnapping of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. He also listed Afghanistan and Iraq against the U.S.-led forces.
Haniyeh said that Hamas is willing to negotiate with Fatah, but without the preconditions the rival party is demanding.
In a televised message from Damascus, Hamas' political leader Khaled Meshal said: "Our people are able to launch a third and fourth uprising until the dawn of victory arrives."
Meshal repeated that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas does not have a mandate to negotiate with Israel. He stressed that contrary to claims by Abbas and his associates, Hamas has not weakened in the six months since its takeover in the Gaza Strip.
Hamas parliament member Mushir al-Masri also spoke at the rally, and warned against a possible Israeli incursion in the Gaza Strip, saying that Hamas "has already begun to dig graves for the Jews."
The Hamas official in charge of Gilad Shalit's case, Osama al-Mzeini, said that the soldier will not see the light of day as long as there are Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.
On Friday morning, at least four people were killed and 30 injured in a mysterious explosion during a funeral procession in Gaza for a Fatah gunman killed in an Israel Air Force attack Thursday. Eyewitnesses said gunmen were firing in the air when the blast occurred. Fatah blamed Hamas, but senior Hamas officials denied any involvement and said that one of the mourners had accidentally dropped a pipe bomb he was carrying.
PA President Abbas announced a three-day mourning period and ordered the Palestinian flag lowered to half mast in memory of those killed.
Haniyeh promised that there would be an investigation.
Meanwhile, Hamas confirmed that it was behind the Gaza kidnapping this weekend of Omar al-Ghul, a senior adviser to Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. A statement from Hamas said that Ghul, who is known as a harsh critic of Hamas, was detained for questioning concerning illegal activities.
Ghul went to Gaza from the West Bank on Wednesday for his mother-in-law's funeral, but relatives said that gunmen dressed in civilian clothes burst into his home at around 4 A.M. Friday, damaged the property and abducted him.