Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal on Saturday reiterated his movement’s refusal to “give up one inch of the land of Palestine.”
Mashaal, who arrived in the Gaza Strip for the first time ever on Friday, said: “Palestine from the river to the sea, from the north to the south, is our land and we will never give up one inch or any part of it.”
He was speaking to hundreds of thousands of Hamas supporters during a rally in Gaza City marking the 25th anniversary of the movement’s founding.
Behind him was an emblem of an M75 missile and a large portrait of Hamas founder Ahmed Yassin. As he spoke, the crowd chanted slogans calling on Hamas’s armed wing, Izzadin Kassam, to fire rockets next time at Haifa.
“Palestine was, still is and will always be Arab and Islamic,” Mashaal said. “Palestine belongs to us and to no one else. We can never recognize the legitimacy of the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Palestine belongs to us, and not to the Zionists.”
Mashaal’s fiery statements stood in sharp contrast to a recent interview he gave to CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, where he said that Hamas accepted a Palestinian state within the pre-1967 lines.
Moreover, they refuted claims that he had endorsed a “pragmatic” approach toward the conflict with Israel.
“Jihad and armed resistance are the right and real way to liberate Palestine and restore our rights,” Mashaal said at the rally. “Liberating Palestine, all of Palestine, is the duty and right and goal of all Arabs and Muslims.”
He vowed not to give up the right to “liberate” Jaffa, Haifa, Safed and Beersheba. Political and diplomatic efforts, as well as mass and legal movements, were “worthless” unless they were accompanied by armed struggle, he said.
Mashaal accused Israel of “forging and altering” the history and character of the Palestinians and their lands, and called on the Palestinian Authority to reconsider its strategy of seeking a peaceful solution.
“Israel has destroyed the Palestinian state that negotiators worked for many years to achieve,” Mashaal said. “Let’s reconsider the political process and bet on the resistance, which will remain the backbone of our program.”
He also called for ending the dispute between Hamas and Fatah, adding that his movement believed in reconciliation and national unity.
“The division is a national disaster,” he said. “The division was imposed on us when some refused to accept the results of the 2006 [parliamentary] election [that Hamas won]. Let’s forget what happened in the past, because today is the day of victory.”
Mashaal appealed to Arab and Islamic countries to give the Palestinians money and weapons, in addition to political support.
“Resistance is a means and not a goal,” he said. “If the world could find a way to liberate Palestine and Jerusalem, and return the refugees without resistance and blood, we would welcome this. But we tried to convince the world for 64 years and it didn’t do anything. Don’t blame us for choosing resistance.”
The “right of return” for Palestinian refugees was “sacred,” the Hamas leader said, adding that Israel had no rights in Jerusalem, “our eternal capital, which we will liberate inch by inch, neighborhood by neighborhood and stone by stone.”
Mashaal rejected the idea of creating a Palestinian state in Jordan.
“Palestine is Palestine and Jordan is Jordan,” he emphasized.
He also assured the Lebanese that the Palestinians did not have territorial ambitions in their country.
Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, who also delivered a speech at the rally, said Hamas was working toward establishing an Arab and Islamic strategy to liberate “all our occupied Palestinian territories.” He added that the group’s “victory” in Operation Pillar of Defense marked the beginning of the collapse of Israel.
Delegations representing several Arab and Islamic countries, as well as some European parties, attended the celebrations.
Hamas officials said that at least 3,000 figures from Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Egypt, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Turkey and Algeria had arrived in the Gaza Strip especially for the event, one of the biggest in the Islamist group’s history.
Fatah representatives in the Gaza Strip attended the main Hamas rally. The Palestinian Authority’s official Palestine TV broadcast Mashaal’s speech live, the first such broadcast since Hamas’s violent takeover of the Gaza Strip in 2007. The move is seen as yet another sign of rapprochement between Hamas and Fatah.
Top Fatah official Azzam al- Ahmed, who is closely associated with PA President Mahmoud Abbas, praised Mashaal for calling for an end to the dispute between the two groups, adding that contacts between the two sides were continuing in order to achieve unity and reconciliation.
“Fatah is waiting for the end of the Hamas celebrations to launch unity talks,” he said.
“The division must end so we can benefit from our unity.”
Abbas is scheduled to meet with Mashaal in Cairo soon to discuss ways of ending the dispute, he added.
PM spokesman, Kadima head Mofaz slam Hamas
In response to statements by Mashaal and other Hamas leaders in Gaza City, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s spokesman, Mark Regev, slammed the terror group Saturday night, saying, “What we heard from the Hamas leadership in Gaza today should serve as a wake-up call to anyone who has illusions about the extremist and murderous character of Hamas.”
“They unequivocally restated a maximalist and terrorist position that sees as its goal the total destruction of the Jewish state and fundamentally rejects any compromise,” Regev said.
“I would ask the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah, who talks about making a political coalition with these extremists: What does this say about your own stated commitment to peace and reconciliation?”
Meanwhile, Kadima chairman Shaul Mofaz said Mashaal deserved to die and should be the subject of a targeted killing, as should all of Hamas’s leadership.
“Mashaal in Gaza is the result of our diplomatic failure in Operation Pillar of Defense,” Mofaz said.
“Netanyahu and Liberman agreed to this. Hamas is raising its head and we must remove it. If Israel continues weakening [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas] and avoiding dealing with Hamas, we will see Mashaal in Judea and Samaria in a few years.”
Tovah Lazaroff and Lahav Harkov contributed to this report.
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