Palestinian Hamas supporters take part in a rally marking the 25th anniversary of the founding of Hamas, in Gaza City, Saturday. In the foreground at Al-Katiba Square is positioned a full-scale model of an M-75 rocket — the likes of which were fired at Israel during last month’s clashes. — Reuters
RAMALLAH — Some 500,000 Palestinians, mainly supporters of Hamas, gathered in the Gaza City’s Al-Katiba Square Saturday to celebrate the movement’s 25th anniversary.
Hamas Politburo Chief Khaled Mishaal, his deputy Moussa Abu Marzouk and politburo member Izzat Al-Risheq attended the ceremony for the first time ever; as did top leaders from Palestinian factions including the rival Fatah.
Mishaal arrived in Gaza Friday for the first time since forty five years to celebrate the anniversary.
Hamas originally intended to hold its anniversary celebrations next week, but the date was advanced to coincide with the anniversary of the First Intifada which erupted on December 8, 1987.
Palestinian men, women and children flocked to Al-Katiba square despite the rains in the morning and gathered before a huge stage, wearing headbands and waving green flags in support of Hamas which has been controlling Gaza since 2007.
Hamas said that 3,000 guests arrived in Gaza to participate in the ceremony. The movement said that the delegations were from Egypt, Qatar, Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Malaysia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Algeria and several European countries.
It added that the movement’s politburo member Saleh Al-Arouri was also scheduled to attend the rally but Israel vetoed his presence; stressing that his presence in the enclave would jeopardize the recent ceasefire deal struck between Israel and Hamas. Israel further vetoed the presence of Islamic Jihad Secretary General Ramadan Abdullah Shallah and his deputy, Ziyad Nakhaleh.
The movement started preparation for the ceremony throughout last week. It positioned a full-scale model of an M-75 rocket – the likes of which were fired at Israel during last month’s violence – in the middle of Al-Katiba Square.
Hamas has repeatedly boasted the rocket’s ability to hit targets in Israel within a 70kn range, as well as the fact that the missile is domestically produced.
Hamas said in a statement on the occasion that it has “renewed its adherence to the option of resistance for the liberation of Palestine.”
“Israel’s crimes against the Palestinian people, their land and holy sites only boost the Palestinian people’s steadfastness and resistance and cannot succeed in breaking their will,” the statement said.
“We will stay faithful to Jerusalem, Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Islamic and Christian holy sites, and will not relinquish any part of them. We also support those steadfast in Jerusalem and our 1948 occupied land in the face of Judaization and displacement schemes.”
Hamas further urged the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to protect the Palestinian people’s interests “against Israel’s violations”; and implored them to take action to end the four-year blockade on Gaza.”