Ha­mas cel­e­brates 23rd an­niver­sary with mass rally

The Pak Banker - - 6international -

GAZA CITY: Tens of thou­sands of Ha­mas sup­port­ers flocked to Gaza City Tues­day for a mass rally to boost sup­port for the mil­i­tant Pales­tinian group on its 23rd an­niver­sary.

Streets, cars and build­ings were adorned with Ha­mas' trade­mark green, and huge crowds of flag-wav­ing sup­port­ers clogged the streets to reach the rally where Ha­mas lead­ers lauded the group's his­tory of fight­ing Is­rael.

"Ha­mas has not failed, Ha­mas has not col­lapsed," Prime Min­ster Is­mail Haniyeh told the crowd. "Ha­mas did not fail to bring to­gether govern­ment and re­sis­tance."

Ha­mas has of­ten been torn be­tween its roots as a mil­i­tant group seek­ing to de­stroy Is­rael and a lo­cal govern­ment re­spon­si­ble for pro­vid­ing ser­vices to 1.5 mil­lion Gazans.

While stick­ing to its mil­i­tant rhetoric, Ha­mas has largely ob­served an in­for­mal truce since a bruis­ing Is­raeli of­fen­sive two years ago, for­go­ing attacks that could spur Is­rael to strike back or tighten its block­ade. Any Is­rael re­sponse could make life harder for Gazans, some 30 per­cent of whom lack jobs. Many more rely on food aid. Ha­mas' mes­sage still res­onates with many in this crowded and con­ser­va­tive Mus­lim so­ci­ety.

Gaza teacher Jamila Hatab, 48, brought two sons and five grand­daugh­ters to Tues­day's rally. "I trust Ha­mas be­cause they are the only peo­ple on earth who still say no to Amer­ica and to Is­rael," she said. But sup­port for Ha­mas is dif­fi­cult to gauge be­cause Gazans fear reper­cus­sions if they speak freely. Ha­mas' con­trol over the Pales­tinian coastal strip re­mains un­chal­lenged, but some an­a­lysts de­tect grow­ing im­pa­tience with Gaza's iso­la­tion and Ha­mas' moves to im­pose strict Is­lamic mores and sti­fle dis­sent.

Other, smaller mil­i­tant groups crit­i­cize it for lim­it­ing attacks on Is­rael. Ha­mas of­fi­cial Osama Muzini called the rally a ref­er­en­dum on Ha­mas' pop­u­lar­ity. "All peo­ple who came to the streets came to say yes to Ha­mas and to its model of govern­ment and re­sis­tance," he said. -Ap

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