Speaking before flag-waving Palestinians from across the Gaza Strip, Ismail Haniya said the Islamist group would never recognise its sworn enemy.
“Let it be understood far and near that after the war, the siege, the internal and external plots: we will not recognise Israel,” he told the cheering crowds. “Our founder Sheikh (Ahmad) Yassin said: Liberate what you can of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Jerusalem, and where it cannot be liberated, declare a truce,” he said, referring to the group’s spiritual leader who was assassinated by Israel in 2004.
Ahead of its anniversary celebrations, Hamas reiterated its aim to recover all of historic Palestine from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River.
“We will cede none of it, and we will not recognise the so-called state of Israel,” a statement said on Monday, adding that its aim was to make Jerusalem the “capital of the state of Palestine” and pledging to work against Israel’s “methods of Judaisation” in the Holy City.
The strident statements stood in sharp contrast Haniya’s remarks on December 1, when he suggested Hamas could accept a negotiated peace deal if the Palestinian population and diaspora approved it in a referendum.
Hamas “will respect the results of a referendum even if the results conflict with Hamas’s positions,” he told foreign journalists.
But the mood during yesterday’s rally was much less conciliatory. Large pictures of Hamas leaders were displayed under a banner reading, “I remain committed to the cause.”
Hamas bussed in supporters from across the coastal enclave, and children at government-run schools and students at three Hamas-affiliated universities were given the day off to attend the rally.
The hardline movement was founded on December 14, 1987 at the start of the first intifada (1987-1993) by Sheikh Ahmad Yassin, a blind, wheelchair-bound cleric. It became known as the group that carried out the most suicide bombings against Israel during the 1990s and during the second intifada, that started in 2000 and petered out five years later.