Hamas celebrates 25th anniversary, despite Israeli threats

Supporters of Hamas gather during a rally to mark the 25th anniversary of the founding of the Islamist movement, in Gaza on 8 December 2012.(Photo: AFP - Mahmud Hams)

Published Saturday, December 8, 2012

Hamas celebrated the 25th anniversary of its creation Saturday, as hundreds of thousands gathered in Gaza City for festivities, despite Israeli threats to end a ceasefire.

Hamas chief Khaled Meshal made on his first trip to the Gaza Strip for the event, returning to Palestinian land Friday for the first time in 45 years.

Israel threatened to cancel the ceasefire agreement brokered by Egypt if Hamas’ chief in exile and his delegation visited the Gaza Strip for the movement's anniversary, senior Hamas leader Izzat al-Rishiq said.

In an interview with the Hamas-affiliated al-Aqsa TV Saturday, al-Rishiq said, “We received real threats that occupation could cancel the ceasefire agreement or do anything.”

He highlighted that Meshal decided to visit the Gaza Strip even at personal risk.

Meshal and Gaza Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh joined the flag-waving crowds in Gaza City, coming on to the festival’s stage through a gate designed like an M75 weapon, a homemade missile which Hamas fighters used against Israel in the 8-day battle.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said in a statement that Meshal in his speech would define the future outlines of Hamas policy focusing on reconciliation with Fatah.

A delegation representing Fatah was scheduled to attend the anniversary events for the first time since the 2007 fighting between both parties.

A small cluster of Fatah flags were seen amid the sea of Hamas banners, as well as the national flags of Malaysia, Bahrain, and Egypt.

Director of border crossings in Gaza Mahir Abu Sabha told Ma'an news agency that more than 1,000 sympathizers from foreign countries arrived in the coastal enclave to attend the anniversary.

A large Egyptian delegation is scheduled to attend, added Abu Sabha.

The event marks the founding of the Islamist movement, as well as celebrating victory against the Israeli forces which bombed the Gaza Strip from the air for eight days in November.

The anniversary rally was moved from its usual date on December 14 to fall on the anniversary of the beginning of the first Palestinian Intifada on 8 December 1987, seen as an overture to other Palestinian factions.

(Ma’an, Al-Akhbar)

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