Tens of thousands rallied in the Gaza Strip Sunday to commemorate the assassination of Hamas'
spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin in an IDF
airstrike ten years ago.
The rally was attended by Hamas' leadership and was also held in memory of Yassin's successor Abdel Aziz Rantisi, and Ibrahim al-Makadmeh whom were also killed by Israel. Despite the impressive turnout, the incident highlighted Hamas' growing isolation in the region.
Hamas remembers slain leader Yassin (Photo: Reuters)
Yassin was killed by an IAF helicopter in March 2004 while making his way to a morning prayer service in Gaza City, his assassination galvanized support for Hamas among the Palestinian public. Rantisi was placed at the head of Hamas immediately afterwards only to be assassinated by Israel
a month later in April 2004.
Hamas Prime Minister in Gaza Ismail Haniyeh eulogized Yassin, claiming his memory brought Palestinians together: "Palestiniana are united in resistance, and there is no other way to attain victory over Israel."
'Palestinian is united in resistance' (Photo: Reuters) Photo: Reuters Photo: Reuters
Haniyeh also slammed the ongoing peace talks, calling on Palestinian president and rival-Fatah
leader Mahmmoud Abbas to exit talks. "We call upon the Palestinian negotiator to quit this pointless track and not to extend negotiations," Haniyeh told the crowd.
Hamas' Gaza leader also commented on the IDF raid in the West Bank town of Jenin Saturday which left three dead, including Hamas operative Hamza Abu Al-Hija who the forces had hoped to arrest but opened fire on them and led to a gun fight.
"Yesterday's event teachws us that martyrs and resistance are the road to freeing Palestine, Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa, and that the Palestinians are united in their resistance to Israel. Gaza wants to tell Jenin: Your battle is out battle. Gaza is all resistance, the West Banks is all resistance and out people are all resistance."
Tens of thousands attend rally (Photo: Reuters)
Haniyeh also spoke about the troubles the organization was facing: "We are living through a difficult stage and harsh challenges, but we are not terrified and we are not defeated. We have become familiar with difficulties and this stage is not the most difficult."
Regarding Egypt's recent push to eradicate illegal smuggling tunnels into the Gaza Strip, Haniyeh rhetorically asked: "Why punish Gaza? Was it because it achieved victory against the occupier? Why punish Gaza? Was it because it took up the rifle against Israel?"
However, he did praise Egypt
as Hamas' "brother, friend and neighbor", but another Hamas official based in the West Bank, Hassan Youssef, had harsher words. "We say to the authors of the coup in Egypt, the criminals who support the occupation (Israel), that the blockade will not work," he said in a televised speech.
Hamas is an offshoot of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, whose leader Mohammed Morsi was ousted last year. The movement has since been outlawed in Egypt, and relations with Hamas have deteriorated.
Cairo's cold shoulder has exacerbated Hamas's isolation since it quit its headquarters in Damascus in protest at Syrian
President Bashar Assad's
crackdown on opposition groups, a move that led Iran
to cut off funding.
Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to this report