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No ceasefire without lifting the siege

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Haniya, no ceasefire without lifting the siege 14 December, 2008 From Khalid Amayreh in occupied East Jerusalem
 In a triumphant speech marking Hamas’s 21st anniversary, Ismael Haniya, the Prime Minister of the Gaza-based Palestinian government, said the Islamic movement and other Palestinian resistance groups wouldn’t extend the present fragile truce with Israel unless the Israeli occupation army lifted its harsh blockade of the Gaza Strip and allowed Gazans free movement from and to the coastal territory.

 The six-month-old truce, or “the calm,” is slated to expire on Friday, amid fears that violence and bloodshed on a larger scale would brake out in the absence of a new agreement or understanding to renew the ceasefire. He pointed out that last month alone, the Israeli occupation army killed more than 20 Palestinians in addition to tightening the blockade of the Gaza Strip.

 Speaking before an estimated 250,000 strong Hamas supporters carrying green Islamic flags, Haniya saluted the huge multitude, saying “you are the response to those who have sought to silence Hamas.” “After all they have done to you, the sinister blockade, the diabolical siege, the criminal plots, the bullying, and the dirty wars, you show up in such huge numbers to tell friends and foes alike that Hamas is as strong as ever and even stronger than ever before,” said Haniya, reciting Quranic verses. The elected Palestinian Prime Minister said that all decision-making circles in the region and outside the region were watching the event in Gaza to see if the people were still clinging to Hamas or abandoning it, and whether the policies of bullying and coercion were having an impact on Hamas’s popularity. “You are the response to those who are besieging us. You are the response to those who are conspiring against the Palestinian people. Our example is the Messenger of God, we have no other example,” said Haniya, alluding to the persecution of the Prophet Muhammed and burgeoning Muslim community at the hands of the idolaters of Quraish in Makka in the early years of Islam.

 Haniya said Hamas was not a “passing phenomenon” but a constant as deep-rooted and firmly-established as the mountains of Palestine. He added that Hamas and the forces of resistance and steadfastness were now stronger than before thanks to the resilience, defiance and stubbornness displayed in the face of the ugly war waged against the Palestinian cause by Israel, the West and their regional puppets. Haniya addressed the outgoing US President George Bush, saying that Bush is about to fall down, but Hamas will never fall down. “Hamas has reasserted the Palestinian cause after years of futile and absurd negotiations.” Haniya castigated the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority (PA) leadership, saying that they should understand that “hugs, and kisses and convivial meetings with the Zionist regime wouldn’t liberate Jerusalem and or return the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people.”

Haniya stressed that PA leader Mahmoud Abbas’ term in office will expire on 9 January, 2009. He scoffed at the recent election of Abbas by a PLO body as “President of Palestine,” saying sarcastically “I didn’t know there was a state that needed a President.” Haniya said Hamas represented a “political miracle.” “We were subjected to immense injustice from every direction. They assassinated our leaders, the blood of our martyrs was dispersed in the streets of Gaza and the West Bank, then they starved our people and sought to throttle us, to decapitate us…and in the West Bank they hounded our people…but they failed to defeat Hamas.” Haniya castigated the siege of Gaza, describing it as a siege of an idea. He also thanked “all the free men and women in the world” who have displayed solidarity with the people of Gaza in their enduring ordeal.

 Addressing Israel and other enemies of the Palestinian people, Haniya said: “You have the money, we’ve got the will; you have the power of arms, we have the power of faith; you have America, we have God.” Haniya lambasted the security coordination between the Palestinian Authority and Israel. “Didn’t you hear (American General Keith) Dayton’s recent statements in which he said that the Palestinian forces were not trained to fight Israel but to fight other Palestinians. “Well we saw this on the ground in Hebron recently when herds of Jewish settlers torched homes, desecrated mosques, and attacked innocent Palestinians while the security forces of the Ramallah authority were watching passively.” Haniya also lashed out at Israeli Foreign Minister and Kadima Party leader Tzipi Livni for insinuating that the estimated 1.5 million Palestinians who are Israeli citizens would have to be expelled to the contemplated Palestinian state at one point in the future. “I say to Livni: They will not come to us, we will go to them.”

Haniya said there was a conspiracy against the right of return for million of Palestinian refugees uprooted from their homes when Israel was created sixty years ago. “I say no to resettlement of refugees, no to an alternative homeland, yes to the repatriation of the refugees, all the refugees, to their original homes and villages.” Haniya scoffed at the American-backed “peace process,” saying “there is really no peace process, there is only a mockery, a travesty, an absurdity, a big lie.” The Palestinian premier called for a “true, serious and genuine national dialogue based on resistance and steadfastness, not on futile negotiations and fruitless peace conferences.” Haniya also challenged those who claim that Hamas was at the beck and call of certain countries such as Iran and Syria. “I challenge you, release all political prisoners today, and you will find us in Cairo tomorrow.” Egypt had been hosting the Fatah-Hamas reconciliation talks which were suspended after Hamas refused to participate due to a massive campaign of arrests of Hamas supporters and sympathizers in the West Bank by the PA security agencies.

Haniya renewed Hamas’s commitment to the Saudi-mediated Makka agreement of 2007 as well as the National Reconciliation Document originally formulated by the leaders of Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli jails, saying that all contentious issues would have to be overcome in one package. He added, however, that Hamas wouldn’t go to Cairo while its supporters and followers were being arrested, hounded and targeted by the American-backed government in Ramallah. “We will not go to Cairo while swords are held against our throats,” said Haniya who also demanded that Egypt stand an equal distance from Fatah and Hamas and not side with one side against the other.

Finally, Haniya spoke bitterly about the role played by the Egyptian regime in perpetuating the blockade of Gaza, saying it was unacceptable that Egypt allows this inhuman situation in Gaza to continue. Observers in Occupied Palestine opine Sunday’s massive rally in Gaza was a clear proof that Hamas was still very popular and that recent opinion surveys which showed a significant decline in the movement’s popularity were largely inaccurate. (end)