Hamas marks 24th anniversary, hails Arab Spring Islamists


The Islamist Hamas movement on Wednesday marked its 24th anniversary, with its prime minister Ismail Haniyeh vowing to continue the “resistance” until the end of Israel’s occupation.

“The resistance and the armed struggle are the way and the strategic choice for liberating Palestinian land from the (Jordan) river to the (Mediterranean) sea,” he said at a mass demonstration in Gaza City’s Kateeba Square.

In a statement to mark the anniversary, Hamas’s armed wing, the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, published a list of statistics marking its achievements since the movement was created in December 1987.

It said it had fired 11,093 rockets and other projectiles into southern Israel and carried out 1,117 attacks, including 87 suicide bombings.

As a result of its activities, 1,365 Israeli soldiers had been killed and 1,365 Israelis injured, the statement said, claiming to have lost 1,848 of its members as “martyrs.”

Organizers said 350,000 people attended the mass demonstration, which turned the square into a sea of green Hamas flags.

Founded in 1987 shortly after the beginning of the first intifada, or uprising, against Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Hamas was inspired by Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood.

Haniyeh said the Brotherhood and other Islamist groups had “spearheaded the Arab Spring” of political change in the region “either through direct confrontation with tyrannical regimes or through the ballot box”.

Though Hamas sprang from the Muslim Brotherhood, it operates independently due to its location and the conflict with Israel.

Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood has renounced violence as a means of bringing about political change, but endorses it for those under foreign occupation.

“Resistance is the way and it is the strategic choice to liberate Palestine from the (Jordan) river to the (Mediterranean) sea and to remove the invaders from the blessed land of Palestine,” Haniyeh told the crowd, which chanted: “We will never recognize Israel.”

Its charter calls for the eventual destruction of Israel and the establishment of an Islamic state on the pre-1948 borders of the British Palestine Mandate.

Hamas is regarded by the West as a terrorist group for its refusal to recognize Israel, renounce violence and accept existing interim Israeli-Palestinian peace deals.

The group has said it might agree to a long-term truce with Israel in return for the creation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

In 2006, Hamas won a landslide victory in Palestinian elections, routing the long-dominant secular Fatah party led by the Western-backed president Mahmoud Abbas, and took over Gaza in June 2007 after months of factional unrest.

It has since tightened its grip on the territory despite harsh Israeli sanctions imposed after the takeover and despite Israel’s devastating 22-day offensive launched in December 2008 that cost the lives of 1,400 Palestinians – half of them civilians – and 13 Israelis, including 10 soldiers.

Early Wednesday morning, the Israeli army arrested Hamas member Aymane Daraghmeh in his Ramallah home, Hamas officials said.

The Israeli army confirmed the arrest, which brings the number of West Bank Hamas members held by Israel to 72.