Tens of thousands of supporters of Islamic Jihad rallied in the streets of Gaza on Friday, chanting "Death to America" and "Death to Israel".
Young men and boys wearing white T-shirts with a slogan in the shape of a rifle bore portraits of militants killed in combat, under the black flags of Islamic Jihad.
Streets of Gaza Friday (Photo: Reuters)
"Israel will not bring peace to the region, it will only bring war and destruction and therefore, the slogan of all should be that Israel must be wiped out of existence," said Ramadan Shallah, the group's exiled chief in Damascus
Shallah, who is on a United States wanted list, sent a recorded message marking the anniversary of the assassination of the group's leader Fathi Shiqaqi in Malta in 1995, by presumed Israeli secret agents.
Senior leaders of Hamas joined the open-air gathering, the largest for years in honor of Islamic Jihad with up to 100,000 attending according to its organizers.
Organizers: 100,000 in attendance (Photo: AFP)
Hamas allowed the group to use city terrain it usually reserves exclusively for its own rallies, and Hamas forces provided security for the parade by its smaller rival.
Islamic Jihad officials said Friday's turnout was a "referendum by the Palestinian people rejecting peace-making with Israel".
"The choice of negotiation has reached deadlock, and we are wondering why is there such an insistence by the Palestinian Authority on negotiation with the enemy," said Shallah.
He urged an end to peace talks and fresh efforts to heal the rift between Fatah and the Islamist militants. Raising hopes that the three-year-old split may be coming to an end, Hamas leader Khalil Al-Hayya said it was time for unity in the face of Israel.
President Abbas, however, has ruled out violence and said he will pursue diplomatic alternatives should the peace talks with Netanyahu collapse definitively.
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