Hamas marks 30th anniversary at low point of Gaza rule, calls for protests against Trump's Jerusalem move

December 14, 2017

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Hamas leader Ismail Haniya waves during a rally marking the 30th of the founding of the movement. —AFP
Hamas leader Ismail Haniya waves during a rally marking the 30th of the founding of the movement. —AFP

Hamas marked the 30th anniversary of its founding with a mass rally of many thousands of supporters on Thursday, staging a show of strength at a low point in the Islamic group's history.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said in a combative speech that the US and Israel have found themselves isolated following President Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital. Hamas has called for a new Palestinian uprising against Israel in response to that recognition.

“We salute the beginning of rage, intifada, and revolution,” Haniyeh told the large crowd that filled a sprawling lot known as al-Katiba Square.

Trump's decision last week has triggered Palestinian protests in the West Bank and Gaza, including some that escalated into deadly clashes with Israeli troops, but it remains unclear whether widespread Palestinian anger at the US will lead to a full-fledged uprising.

Hamas' rival, the Fatah movement of West Bank-based Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, seeks to establish a Palestinian state in lands Israel captured in 1967, with east Jerusalem as a capital. Hamas wants to set up an Islamic state between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean, which includes Israel.

Supporters attend a Rally marking the 30th anniversary of Hamas movement, in Gaza City. —AP
Supporters attend a Rally marking the 30th anniversary of Hamas movement, in Gaza City. —AP

Israel claims all of Jerusalem as its capital, including the Israeli-annexed east, which is home to key Muslim, Jewish and Christian shrines.

Thursday's rally drew tens of thousands of Hamas supporters, many waving the movement's green flag or sporting Hamas headbands.

Masked Hamas militants marched behind the group's political officials on a raised stage.

A giant poster showing Jerusalem's Dome of the Rock mosque and a Hamas militant with a Palestinian flag and a rifle formed the backdrop. “Jerusalem is the capital of Palestine” read the caption in Arabic and English.

The anniversary came at a difficult time in Hamas' turbulent history.

A decade after seizing Gaza by force, it has been compelled to seek reconciliation with Abbas' Fatah.

An Egyptian-brokered reconciliation deal between Hamas and Fatah in October has seen Hamas give up control of Gaza crossings, but differences over collecting revenues hinder its progress.

Hamas blames an Israeli-Egyptian border blockade, lack of support from Arab and Muslim nations, and Abbas' alleged attempts to undermine the group for the hardships in Gaza.

The coastal territory suffers from 43 percent unemployment and worsening blackouts. In recent days, rolling blackouts lasted for 24 hours, followed by four hours of electricity.