NABLUS – Nablus' main square saw a rare sight on Thursday afternoon as thousands of Palestinians gathered for a rally celebrating 25 years for Hamas' inception.
Authorized by the Palestinian Authority, the rally's main theme was Operation Pillar of Defense labeled by the protesters as "The Triumph over Israel."
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Leaders from the northern West bank, Nablus Governor Jibrin Bakri and Fatah official Amin Maqbul addressed the crowd from a stage erected at the square.
Thousands of ecstatic Palestinians carried Hamas' green flags and models of Qassam and Fajr rockets which had been fired at Israel during the Gaza op. Palestinian security forces managed to maintain order but did not come near the crowds.
Once every few minutes the MC declared from the podium "Our leader is the Prophet, our law is the Koran."
Thousands celebratw Hamas 25th anniversary, Nablus (Photo: Ohad Zwigenberg)
Standing on the sidelines, Shadi, a resident of the Nablus district, said, "What victory are they talking about? Everyone knows that Israel beat Hamas in Gaza." Perhaps they mean a political triumph, I suggested, but he was adamant.
"Hamas are selling it as a victory because they succeeded in opening the Rafah crossing for goods and people but that only serves Israel in washing its hands of the Strip. Where is the victory there?"
'Our law is the Koran' (Photo: Ohad Zwigenberg)
But Shadi is a lone voice in Nablus. To the crowds, Hamas' achievements in Gaza are as much a success as their ability to organize a public rally in the city's main square. A member of Hamas' Change and Reform Party declared Thursday as a historic day for the terrorist group.
He told the crowd that Hamas sacrificed 1,000 of its people for Palestine and the masses responded by praising the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas' military wing.
Fatah's Maqbul also praised Hamas and the Palestinian factions describing them as "the blessed hands that taught Israel a lesson in Gaza."
Children joined the rally (Photo: Ohad Zwigenberg)
Stressing the importance of Palestinian reconciliation he said, "We are required to act, not talk, and implement the Cairo understandings. We must close the black chapter in the Palestinian people's history."
A real Hamas show of force in the West Bank, the images and rhetoric seen and heard at the rally were nevertheless nothing like those in Gaza last week.
The speakers spoke of the need to establish a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital but did not name its borders, unlike Khaled Mashaal who called for a Palestinian state "from the sea to the river."
The speakers also hailed Mahmoud Abbas' diplomatic achievement at the UN's General Assembly. As the rally drew to a close, Shadi remarked that the main problem plaguing co-existence between Palestinians and Israelis is religion.
"Religious Hamas will always cause us problems as far as a settlement with Israel and your religious folk will always remain right-wing alongside Lieberman and Netanyahu," he said.
You can contact Elior Levy, Ynet's Palestinian Affairs Correspondent, at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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