Emboldened Hamas renews call for the end of Israel

Gaza rulers stage show of strength, hailing Arab Spring and vowing to liberate 'all of Palestine'

Gaza City

Hamas yesterday declared itself bolstered by the Arab Spring and the exchange with Israel of more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners, as the group mounted a show of strength with tens of thousands attending a lavishly staged rally in the centre of Gaza City.

Gaza's ruling Islamic faction bussed in supporters from across the territory for a mass rally to mark its 24th anniversary at which their leaders' rhetoric laid heavy emphasis on continued adherence to armed struggle and the eventual "liberation" of the whole land, including what is now Israel.

Ismail Haniyeh, Gaza's de facto prime minister, told the rally: "We affirm that armed resistance is our strategic option and the only way to liberate our land, from the [Mediterranean] sea to the River [Jordan]. God willing, Hamas will lead the people... to the uprising until we liberate Palestine, all of Palestine."

Mr Haniyeh sounded a triumphalist note on the faction's success in using its 2006 capture of the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit to secure this October's release of prisoners. And asserting that Hamas would be a beneficiary of Arab uprisings that have heralded the rise of Islamist political groups, he declared: "No one inside or outside the Palestinian arena can bypass Hamas."

As Mr Haniyeh arrived on stage, a 10-man vocal group led the crowd in a chant of "We will not recognise Israel". Earlier, the group had sung the praises of the Hamas military wing. But the only visible sign of armed militants at this year's rally was a small contingent of masked men carrying AK47s and forming a ceremonial guard behind Mr Haniyeh as he greeted the crowd.

While insisting that Hamas wanted to end the split between it and Fatah – the purpose of further talks in Cairo between the two Palestinian factions scheduled this month – Mr Haniyeh implicitly pointed to a possible obstacle by stressing that Palestinian unity could not mean sacrificing the principle of "armed resistance".

The uncompromising oratory at the rally glossed over political and military complexities which have seen Hamas leaders at times offer a long-term truce in return for a Palestinian state on 1967 borders, and make efforts, including for much of this year, to prevent smaller factions from firing rockets into Israel.

But they coincided with increasing suggestions by the Israeli military that it is contemplating a fresh assault three years after Operation Cast Lead, the offensive which killed 1,300 Palestinians, about half of them civilians.

Colonel Yonaton Branski, deputy commander of the Israeli Defence Forces' Gaza Division, said this week that we "can't avoid another confrontation" with Hamas which he said had steadily built up its arsenal since the 2008-09 operation. Military officials have also pointed to the growing strength of the smaller, Iranian-backed Islamic Jihad.

As life went on as normal elsewhere, much of Gaza City appeared indifferent to the rally, including in cafes where it was being shown live on TV. Physiotherapist Sameh Aloul, 30, said he doubted that either Hamas or Fatah were capable of winning an election tentatively scheduled for May 2012 and added: "In my opinion it is a waste of money to have this luxury festival."

News
Russell Brand was in typically combative form during his promotional interview with Newsnight's Evan Davis
peopleReports that Brand could stand for Mayor on an 'anti-politics' ticket
News
The clocks go forward an hour at 1am on Sunday 30 March
news
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor finds himself in a forest version of London in Doctor Who episode 'In the Forest of the Night'
TVReview: Is the Doctor ever going stop frowning? Apparently not.
News
Voluminous silk drawers were worn by Queen Victoria
newsThe silk underwear is part of a growing trade in celebrity smalls
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
footballMatch report: Real fight back to ruin Argentinian's debut
News
Candidates with surnames that start with an A have an electoral advantage
newsVoters are biased towards names with letters near start of alphabet
Arts and Entertainment
Isis with Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville)
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jay James
TVReview: Performances were stale and cheesier than a chunk of Blue Stilton left out for a month
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?