Tens of Thousands Rally in Gaza, 10 Years After Hamas Leader Killed

Hamas' de-facto PM uses anniversary of founding father's death to call on Abbas to end peace negotiations with Israel.

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Tens of thousands of Hamas supporters rallied in the Gaza Strip Sunday, marking 10 years since the assassination of the movement's founding father and spiritual leader, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin.

Yassin was assassinated in a targeted Israeli airstrike in 2004, after scores of suicide bombings and rocket attacks by the radical Islamist movement.

Israel unilaterally withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005. Hamas won Palestinian parliamentary elections that same year, and seized sole control of the coastal enclave 18 months later, by violently overpowering the security forces of moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Hamas' de-facto prime minister in Gaza and Abbas' rival, Ismail Haniya, used the anniversary to call on Abbas to withdraw from peace negotiations with Israel, which he called "absurd."

The turn-out in Gaza was a clear "no to negotiations, no to compromise and yes to resistance," Haniya told the crowd, waving green Hamas flags and wearing green caps and headbands.

Abbas' peace talks with Israel, which faces an April deadline, should not be extended "under any reason or pretext," he said.

Unlike Abbas, Hamas has refused to renounce violence, recognize Israel's right to exist and endorse past interim peace deals calling for a two-state solution to the conflict. It advocates an Islamic state in what is now Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Hamas Prime Minister in the Gaza Strip Ismail Haniya (C) waves to the audience during a public rally marking 10 years since an Israeli air strike killed Hamas spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin.Credit: AFP

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