Haniyeh pleads for Palestinian patience

More than 40,000 crowd into Gaza sports stadium for Palestinian PM's Eid speech.

October 23, 2006 10:34
1 minute read.
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Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh implored Palestinians facing increasing poverty and hardship to be patient, in an impassioned speech on Monday marking the start of the Eid al-Fitr holiday. More than 40,000 Palestinians crowded into Gaza City's Yarmouk sports stadium to hear Haniyeh speak at the start of the three days of feasting that mark the end of Ramadan, the Muslim fasting month. Haniyeh's 30-minute speech mostly focused on an international aid boycott of the Palestinian Authority, which has crippled its finances. Donors froze contributions after Haniyeh's militant Islamic Hamas movement swept parliamentary elections in January, but refused to recognize Israel or renounce violence. Since then, about 165,000 civil servants who provide for one-third of the Palestinian people have not been paid a regular salary. Tens of thousands of government employees and their families have fallen into poverty, and widespread strikes, supported by Hamas' rival, Fatah, have led to armed clashes between the two groups. "I know there are many homes living in pain, and some people shed tears last night because they had no money to give in charity, and could not find food for their children's mouths," Haniyeh told a somber crowd. As he spoke, his audience began to chant in praise of God. "If any other people had faced the siege, hardship and destruction you faced, they would have raised the white flag," Haniyeh said, as children searched through garbage piles for dropped sweets. The aid embargo, he said, has re-emphasized the main issues facing the Palestinians. "Our cause is liberation from occupation," Haniyeh said. "It is a cause of Jerusalem, the land, the state, prisoners and refugees." Elsewhere in the city, in a reminder of the divisions between Hamas and Fatah, Fatah parliamentarian Mohammed Dahlan spoke at a memorial to fallen Palestinian fighters, highlighting the recent killings of security men loyal to Fatah. On Sunday night, a Palestinian security officer was killed in what officials said was an assassination-style slaying. The man worked for a security branch that answers to President Mahmoud Abbas, the Fatah leader. At least 14 people have been killed in recent weeks in street clashes between the two sides, the latest on Sunday, when a Fatah activist was killed by Hamas gunmen.

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