Palestinian Prime Minister and Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh declared on Sunday that “whoever declares that he will never recognize Israel earns the Palestinians’ love”. Speaking before an estimated Gaza City crowd of more than 200,000 who had gathered there to commemorate the 20th anniversary since the founding of the organization known as Hamas, Haniyeh noted a number of “achievements” that his organization was either fully or partially responsible for including the 2005 Israeli pull out from Gaza, the Hamas takeover of the Gaza strip from rivals Fatah, the 2006 war, and the continued captivity of Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit. He also said that Israel’s Prime Minister Ehud Olmert “is weak and unable to negotiate Shalit’s release”.
Though Haniyeh said that his organization is willing to negotiate a peace agreement with Fatah, they will never do so with Israel. “Hamas has already begun to dig graves for the Jews” a Hamas parliament member Nushir al-Masri said during the same rally.
“The Israeli soldier Schalit will never see the light of day as long as Palestinians remain in Israeli jails”, Osama al-Muzaini, the Hamas official responsible for the soldier’s well being was quoted as saying.
And from exile in Damascus, Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal congratulated Haniyeh and added that “our people are able to launch a third and even fourth Intifada until the day of victory arrives”.
Regarding any possible Israeli military invasion into Gaza, Haniyeh said that a lot of unpleasant “surprises” awaited any planned IDF operation into “the Palestinian Motherlandâ€ and that Israel forces would pay dearly.
Meanwhile, a Palestinian man who lives in the area where the June 2006 cross border raid that resulted in IDF corporal Gilad Schalit being captured and two IDF soldiers killed took place revealed that he had seen Schalit on the day of his capture. He said that after hearing gunshots and explosions he saw several Palestinian militants leading an IDF soldier who appeared wounded and had blood stains and burns on his face, upper body and arms.
All of this appears to be a marked contrast to the recent summit in Annapolis Maryland in which both Israeli P.M. Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Machmoud Abbas agreed to work together towards the creation of a Palestinian State by the end of 2008. The belligerency of Hamas also seems contrary to a pledge to give the Palestinians a sum of over $5.6 billion to assist towards the development of a Palestinian infrastructure. The pledge, given at a special donor’s conference which took place in Paris over the weekend was attended by Abbas as well as U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni.
Only one thing was missing and that was representatives of the more than 1.2 million Palestinians living in Gaza and ruled over by Mr. Haniyeh and his exiled colleague Khaled Meshaal.. And judging from the noise being made by the over 200,000 Hamas supporters who had gathered Sunday to cheer their leaders, trying to avoid Hamas is like trying to avoid Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah in Lebanon â€“ with the same explosive implications.