hamas protest 224 8.
(photo credit: AP [file])
Hamas protests Annapolis peace parley
Thousands of Hamas supporters converged on the deserted Gaza City house of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Friday, warning of violence if he makes concessions to Israel in an upcoming US-sponsored peace conference.
Abbas will be leading the talks at the end of the month in Annapolis, Maryland. Abbas rules in the West Bank after he kicked Hamas out of the government and installed his own administration following the group's seizure of control in the Gaza Strip in June. Hamas is not invited to the meeting.
Khalil al-Haya, a Hamas leader, warned of violence if Palestinian rights over the Al Aksa Mosque in east Jerusalem are denied. Bloodshed will also result if Israel does not open Gaza's crossings with the outside world, he said. Israel closed the passages after Hamas's takeover of Gaza.
"We warn the whole region... against harming Al Aksa, meddling with our basic rights, or tightening the siege," Haya told the crowd of about 10,000 outside Abbas's house, which Hamas security controls. "We warn of a huge explosion, in which Palestinians will blow up in all placesâ€¦ No seas or barbed wire will prevent that."
While Haya did not specifically say Hamas would carry out suicide bombings, the remarks appeared to be a veiled threat of a return to attacks. The group has not been involved in suicide bombings since 2004.
Israeli security officials have predicted that Hamas could try to violently derail the peace conference if it appears progress is being made toward resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The Hamas demonstrators called on Abbas not to make concessions on Palestinian demands regarding Jerusalem, the borders of a Palestinian state and the return of Palestinian refugees to homes they fled when Israel was established in 1948.
"We are coming to you Al Aksa," the crowd chanted. Through a loudspeaker a man shouted "Let the land burn under the feet of those who give up the land, the right of return, and Jerusalem."
Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman, said the rally was a message to the Annapolis conference.
The demonstration was a response in part to the Knesset's preliminary approval on Wednesday of a bill that would require 80 of parliament's 120 lawmakers to approve territorial concessions on Jerusalem, making it harder to win approval of any agreement that includes a division of the city. Palestinians were also unnerved by a visit by Israeli lawmakers to east Jerusalem, including areas around the Al Aksa Mosque.
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