Hamas rally 298.88.
(photo credit: AP [file])
Tens of thousands of Hamas supporters marched through the northern Gaza Strip on Friday afternoon to show their backing for the militant group, even as its efforts to form a national unity government appeared stalled.
Thousands of people marched through the town of Jebaliya in northern Gaza, wearing green baseball hats and waving green Hamas flags.
One banner carried by the marchers read: "Yes to our government, no to all the mercenaries trying to sabotage it."
Hamas lawmaker Mushir al-Masri, attending the rally, vowed that his group would never recognize Israel, no matter what the cost.
"We vow to God never to recognize Israel, even if we all die, and we ask God to punish Israel, its allies, and those who recognize it or call on us to recognize it," al-Masri said.
Al-Masri told reporters that "the Palestinian people... are rejecting the unjust and unfair siege and all attempts to carry out an internal coup against this government."
After Hamas took over the Palestinian Authority, Western governments and Israel cut off financial ties with the government, demanding the militant group recognize Israel, renounce violence and respect previous agreements signed with Israel.
The cutoff in foreign aid has prevented the Palestinian Authority from paying full salaries to its 165,000 employees for six months. Many civil servants responded by going on strike and calling for the resignation of the Hamas government.
The Palestinians' situation further deteriorated after Hamas-linked militants attacked an Israeli army post on June 25, capturing a soldier, and Israel responded with a widescale offensive in Gaza.
In an effort to end the economic embargo on the government, Hamas officials have tried to form a coalition with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah Party. However, efforts to form the national unity government have stalled because of Hamas' refusal to recognize Israel.
Masri said Hamas remained committed to forming the coalition.
"We are going to move ahead with the president, because there is no choice," he said.
Also Friday, soldiers killed two Palestinians the army said had come to collect rocket launchers in the northern Gaza Strip.
Two Palestinians killed in Beit Hanun
Palestinian hospital officials said the two youths, Anwar Hamdan, 16, and Hamam Hamdan, 14, were riding bicycles to inspect the rocket launchers when they were killed in the attack.
In recent months, Palestinian militant groups have sent children to collect the rocket launchers, believing they would be less likely to be attacked.