Hamas PM Ismail Haniyeh (Archives)
Final preparations for events marking the 22nd anniversary for the Hamas movement's establishment on Monday are underway in the Gaza Strip.
Among the events, a massive rally is scheduled to take place, and officials from the movement hinted that a "big surprise" can be expected in the event. But the movement refused to go into detail about the surprise. Celebrations are slated continue all throughout the week.
Sources from Hamas declined to comment on whether any developments in talks for a prisoner exchange deal with Israel could be expected during the celebrations. Hamas' Interior Minister Fathi Hamad in the past had said the movement was striving to celebrate its anniversary with the release of Palestinian prisoners.
The planned "surprise" was announced by head of Hamas' popular branch, which is responsible for organizing the festivities.
On Saturday, with the start of the festivities, a car and motorcycle convoy left from the home of founder, Sheikh Ahmad Yassin, who was killed in an Israeli strike in March 2004, and continued to the homes of Dr. Muhammad a-Zahar and Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, who joined the convoy.
Haniyeh waved at the Palestinians standing at the sides of the road and wished the "heroic Palestinian people" a good year, saying, "God willing, we will mark the next anniversary of the movement's establishment in the liberated Jerusalem, with the help of God." Haniyeh also greeted the organization's gunmen.
Meanwhile, Hamas sources reported that the Palestinian Authority continues to carry out arrests in the West Bank aimed at preventing the movement's supporters from organizing a rally to mark its anniversary.
Hamas media claim that "There has not been a Palestinian movement that lost its leaders and its leaders' sons in war with Israel as has been with Hamas' leaders and their children."
The organization noted the assassinations of Ahmad Yassin, Dr. Abdel Aziz al-Rantisi, Ismail Abu Shanab, Said Seyam, Nizar Rayan, and Salah Shehadeh. It also noted the leaders who lost their sons, included al-Zahar, who lost both his sons, one in attempted assassination and the other in a battle between a Hamas ring and IDF soldiers.