Hamas chief Khalid Mashaal made his first visit to the Gaza Strip on Friday, telling crowds he hoped his next visit would be to Jerusalem, Ramallah and a liberated Palestine.
After passing through the Egyptian border crossing, Mashaal knelt on the ground to offer a prayer of thanks and was then greeted by dozens of officials from an array of competing factions lined up to meet him in warm December sun.
Mashaal praised the people of Gaza and the political factions in his first ever speech on Palestinian soil. “We politicians are in debt to the people of Gaza,” he said.
The leader was briefly tearful as he was welcomed by Gaza’s Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh.
Mashaal said his visit to Gaza was his “third birth” referring to an assassination attempt by Israeli Mossad agents in 1997 as his previous “re-birth.”
“I pray to God that my fourth birth will come the day we liberate Palestine,” he said, clearly moved by his reception, with uniformed police breaking ranks to try and kiss his hand.
“Today is Gaza. Tomorrow will be Ramallah and after that Jerusalem then Haifa and Jaffa,” he said.
Abbas: Unity gov’t will honor all agreements with Israel; Hamas says it will have nothing to do with PA president’s program
A dispute has erupted between Hamas and Fatah over the political platform of a Palestinian unity government, Palestinian sources reported Sunday.
The dispute came as Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal made preparations to hold another meeting in Cairo later this week to discuss the formation of a unity government and the implementation of the recent Qatari-brokered reconciliation agreement between the two sides.
On Saturday, Abbas told the Italian consul-general in Jerusalem during a meeting in Ramallah that a Palestinian unity government, which would be established under the terms of the Qatari-brokered deal, would abide by the PLO’s political program.
Abbas said that the unity government would also honor all agreements that were signed between the PLO and Israel, including the Oslo Accords.
Under the terms of the reconciliation deal, the unity government would be headed by Abbas and its main mission would be to prepare for presidential and parliamentary elections and rebuild the Gaza Strip.
Abbas’s statements about the political agenda of the unity government drew sharp criticism from Hamas, whose leaders rushed Sunday to deny the PA president’s remarks.
Hamas does not want to be seen as having recognized the Oslo Accords or Israel’s right to exist by agreeing to the formation of a unity government with Abbas’s Fatah faction.
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri emphasized that the proposed unity government “would have nothing to with Abbas’s political program, which we categorically reject,” Abu Zuhri said.
Despite agreement in Cairo by Abbas and Mashaal to release political detainees, Hamas officials reveal PA security forces arrest, summon supporters; Fatah supporters ‘picked up’ in Gaza Strip.
One week after Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal announced they have agreed to “open a new page” in their relations, Hamas and Fatah complained Wednesday that their supporters were still being targeted in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Following the Cairo summit between Abbas and Mashaal, representatives of the two rival parties said that that the two men agreed to release all “political detainees” held by the PA in the West Bank and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
Hamas officials revealed that the PA security forces have arrested or summoned for interrogation 23 supporters of the Islamist movement in the past few days in violation of the understandings reached between Abbas and Mashaal. Half of the detainees were rounded up in the past 48 hours, the officials said.
On Thursday, families and relatives of scores of detainees held in PA prisons will stage a sit-in strike in Hebron to demand the release of their sons.
Hamas also accused the PA government of firing a number of civil servants for allegedly being affiliated with the movement.
Most of the arrests in the West Bank were carried out by the PA’s General Intelligence Service and the Preventive Security Force.