Thousands rally in Gaza on 31st anniversary of the founding of Hamas

Hamas demonstration in Gaza earlier this year
Hamas demonstration in Gaza earlier this year

TENS of thousands of Palestinians have attended a huge rally in the besieged Gaza Strip to mark the 31st anniversary of the establishment of the Hamas resistance movement.

Hamas was established in 1987 soon after the first Palestinian Intifada or uprising broke out against the Israeli occupation. The movement has been administering Gaza since 2007 when it scored a surprise parliamentary victory.

On Saturday, Hamas marked the anniversary of its foundation with a military parade featuring the Palestinian resistance movement’s new defensive hardware. Members of the group’s military movement, the Izzddin al-Qassam Brigades, showcased various military vehicles and weapons.

The ceremony was held in the southern city of Khan Yunis in the Gaza Strip which is ruled by the movement. The movement’s special units staged a march-past during which truck-mounted missile defence systems were driven through the streets.

The movement also honoured its fighters who outed and neutralised an Israeli infiltration near Khan Yunis last month. Undercover Israeli special forces infiltrated into the territory in a civilian car near Khan Yunis, opening fire and killing local commander Noor Baraka when they were discovered.

The unit was chased by Hamas fighters who killed a ranking Israeli officer. Israel then launched dozens of airstrikes on Gaza, drawing Hamas retaliation. During a two-day flare-up, more than 500 rockets were fired at Israel, forcing Tel Aviv to accept a hasty declaration of a ceasefire.

The Palestinian Hamas resistance movement has released a video of a retaliatory guided-missile strike against an Israeli military bus. The Saturday ceremony also coincided with the anniversary of the first Palestinian Intifada, which broke out in 1987 after four young Palestinians were killed by Israeli soldiers at a checkpoint in Gaza as well as the shooting death of a 17-year-old boy during an unarmed protest.

An Arabic word that literally translates to ‘shaking off,’ Intifada has been used to refer to legitimate means of resistance against oppression across the Middle East for decades. In the Arab-Israeli conflict, it means a concerted Palestinian effort to shake off Israeli occupation and gain independence.

• Palestinians have held a funeral procession for a teenager shot dead by Israeli forces during clashes in the occupied West Bank. The Palestinians marched through the streets of Ramallah on Saturday to attend the funeral of Mahmoud Nakhla, 18, a day after Israeli regime forces killed him during clashes in Jalazone refugee camp in Ramallah.

Several people were also injured in the clashes that erupted between Palestinians and Israeli forces during protests in Ramallah against the Israeli settlement construction and the seizure of their land. Israeli forces also clashed with Palestinian protesters in other areas across the occupied territories. They shot and injured several protesters in the city of al-Bireh.

In the besieged Gaza Strip, 85 Palestinians, including seven medics and three journalists, were also wounded by Israeli gunfire as thousands demonstrated near the fence, separating Gaza from the occupied territories, on Friday.

Separately on Saturday, Israeli forces raided the al-Am’ari refugee camp in the south of al-Bireh and demolished the home of a Palestinian prisoner accused of killing an Israeli soldier in May. Islam Abu Hamid was arrested during a raid of the camp in June. In reaction, the Palestinian government released a statement, holding the Tel Aviv regime responsible for the deterioration of the situation on the ground as a result of its incursions.

Palestinian government spokesman Youssef al-Mahmoud described the incursion as a ‘scene of collective punishment,’ demanding ‘immediate international intervention and provision of international protection for our unarmed Palestinian people.’

The demolition came amid an intense search operation across the occupied territories after two soldiers were killed near Ramallah. On Friday, the military said it had rounded up as many as 40 Palestinians, trying to hunt down the suspect.

The two Israeli troops were killed after an attacker emerged from a vehicle and shot at soldiers near the settlements of Beit El and Ofra on Thursday. The alleged shooting came after Israeli forces killed three Palestinians in separate operations over the span of six hours. In total, seven people were killed in the most violent day to hit the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem al-Quds in months.

• Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has denounced Australia’s controversial move in recognising Jerusalem al-Quds as the so-called capital of the Israeli regime, saying the country has ‘no rights’ to do so.

The Malaysian leader made the comments on the sidelines of an event in the Thai capital of Bangkok on Sunday, a day after Canberra announced that it had formally recognised the city as Israel’s ‘capital’ and would move its Tel Aviv embassy once a peace settlement was reached.

‘Jerusalem (al-Quds) should remain as it is now and not the capital of Israel,’ Mahathir said, adding, ‘Jerusalem (al-Quds) has always been under Palestine, so why are they taking the initiative to divide Jerusalem (al-Quds) not belonging to them, but to divide the Arabs and the Jews? They have no rights.’

Australia’s provocative move followed US President Donald Trump’s decision to move the American embassy to the city from Tel Aviv on May 14, which infuriated Palestinians and the wider Islamic world and upset Western allies.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced a contentious decision to relocate the country’s embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem al-Quds. The relocation also triggered demonstrations in the occupied Palestinian territories, Iran, Turkey, Egypt, Jordan, Tunisia, Algeria, Iraq, Morocco and other Muslim countries.

The US president had announced his decision to recognise Jerusalem al-Quds as Israel’s ‘capital’ and relocate the US embassy in the occupied territories from Tel Aviv to the city on December 6 last year.

On December 21, 2017, the United Nations General Assembly overwhelmingly voted in favour of a resolution that called on the US to withdraw its controversial policy shift, but all to no avail.

Canberra’s decision on recognition makes the Commonwealth of Australia one of a handful of countries to recognise the city as the ‘capital’ of the Israeli regime, representing a change in the Oceanian country’s long-held policy on the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. Meanwhile, Malaysia’s Foreign Ministry released a statement echoing the stance adopted by the premier regarding Australia’s decision, saying Kuala Lumpur ‘strongly opposes’ it.

• An NGO has found that more than one million Israeli children, or 35.6 per cent of all kids in the occupied territories, are living in poverty. The food security NGO Latet said in its latest report that in addition to one million children, 1.3 million Israeli adults are also defined as poor.

Overall, 26.5 per cent of the entire population in the occupied lands live below the poverty line, according to the report. It also found that one in four children from the families receiving support from the NGO frequently go to school without a packed lunch, and one in three skip at least one meal a day.

The report further said that some 6 per cent of aid-dependent Israeli children have had to beg for donations, another 6 per cent collected food from the ground or garbage bins, and some 5.4 per cent stole food.

‘When there are more than half a million poor families and more than a million poor children, you cannot just get used to it and accept it,’ said Latet chairman Gilles Darmon. ‘Israeli governments may have gotten used to having so many poor people, but the poor children will never get used to it.’

Additionally, Latet CEO Eran Weintraub said that the Israelis have simply got used to such reports as they have ‘the worst poverty rates in the West.’ In recent months, Israel has seen a wave of price hikes in electricity, water, gas, food, insurance and property tax.

Inspired by France’s ‘yellow vests’ movement, hundreds of protesters took to the streets of Tel Aviv on Friday to blame the Israeli regime for rising living costs.

Israelis organised a rally against planned price rises, urging the public to show up wearing French-style yellow vests.

According to the Latet report, 53 per cent of the Israeli families defined as poor did not have enough food while 72 per cent feared that their food supplies would be finished before there was any more money. It also found that 71 per cent of aid recipients in Israel are in debt, 49 per cent in foreclosure proceedings and more than half of them do not have access to heating.