Hayeh declares victory over Israel

At Gaza rally, top Hamas official tells supporters Schalit to be freed only in prisoner exchange deal.

hamas khalil al hayeh (photo credit: )
hamas khalil al hayeh
(photo credit: )
In a first public appearance since he went into hiding a month ago, when Israel launched Operation Cast Lead against the terrorist group in the Gaza Strip, Senior Hamas official Khalil al-Hayeh addressed more than 5,000 supporters rallied in Gaza on Friday, declaring Hamas's victory over Israel. Hayeh remained defiant despite Hamas' heavy losses in the three weeks of fighting that devastated much of the city. "We thank God when we see our houses bombed and our institutions destroyed, but our people say yes to the resistance and yes to martyrdom for the sake of God," Hayeh said, standing in front of the damaged Palestinian parliament building. "We say proudly that Gaza has won the war, the resistance has won the war, and Hamas has won the war," said Hayeh. Hayeh went on to say Hamas would only release captured IDF soldier Gilad Schalit in exchange for Hamas members imprisoned in Israel. "Schalit will never see light or life as long as our prisoners don't see light or life among their families," he said. The Hamas leader repeated previous declarations that the group would not agree to a long-term cease-fire with Israel that didn't include opening the border crossings and lifting the blockade on the Strip. The crowd waved red and white Turkish flags next to green Hamas banners. Hayeh called Turkey's Prime Minister Recip Tayyip Erdogan "a hero" for criticizing Israel over the Gaza offensive during a panel on Thursday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. But while Hamas pledged to rearm and continue "resistance" against Israel, Egypt tightened security along the border with the Gaza Strip, arresting two armed Palestinians on Friday afternoon. The men tried to enter Egypt from the Strip by crossing the border via a tunnel, Army Radio reported on Friday evening. The detained Palestinians reportedly told investigators that seven other armed Palestinians had entered Egypt via the same underground tunnel earlier on Friday. Egyptian security forces were searching the area.