The head of Hamas’s political bureau, Khaled Mashaal, announced on Saturday in Gaza that the terrorist movement would continue its armed struggle against Israel, adding that Hamas was seeking to co-ordinate its actions with Fatah and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.
Mashaal arrived in Gaza for the first time in his life. He was able to do so having gained Egyptian permission and under the tacit understanding that Israel would not seek to harm him, in accordance with last month’s ceasefire agreement.
In his speech commemorating the 25th anniversary of Hamas’s founding, he said: “Our principles and policy are that Palestine is from the sea to the river, from north to south. Palestine is Arab and Islamic. We will not recognise the Zionist occupation and not legitimise Israel and the occupation. Palestine is ours and not the Zionists’.”
Behind Mashaal on the platform was a model of the M75 missile that Hamas launched towards Tel Aviv and Jerusalem last month. He said: “We are proud of the bombing of Tel Aviv and now we need more weapons. Our armed wing is our way to defend Palestine. But resistance is way, not a means. I call upon the world: if you have another way of returning Palestine and Jerusalem and the refugees, offer it. We have tried for 64 years and the only way that proved itself was resistance.”
Mashaal spoke at length of Palestinian unity and his plans to relaunch unity talks between Hamas and Fatah, despite repeated failed attempts in recent years. The rally was attended by a senior Fatah delegation — a signal that both sides are acknowledging the calls for unity. So far, though, talks have not yet been restarted.
Another sign of the rapprochement between Hamas and Fatah is the fact that Hamas rallies were due to take place in Nablus and Hebron in areas ruled by the PA this week.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticised Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday for not speaking out against Mashaal’s speech in Gaza: “We have been exposed again to the true face of our enemy who has no intention of compromising with us, but want to destroy our state.”
Overall, the two movements are still extremely suspicious of each other and have yet to agree on any prisoner swap. Commanders of the Palestinian security services in the West Bank are still assuring their Israeli counterparts that they have no intention of allowing Hamas to re-establish itself there.