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Hamas: ‘beginning of end for Israel’

Zaterdag, Augustus 20, 2005

By Khaled Abu Toameh, Jerusalem Post, August 20, 2005.

Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal declared on Wednesday that the Israeli
withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and northern West Bank marked the beginning
of the end of the Zionist dream in Palestine.

Mashaal was speaking to reporters in Beirut and his remarks were broadcast
live by a number of major Arab TV satellite stations. He dubbed the pullout a
“defeat in the face of Palestinian resistance and a significant step with historic
dimensions.”

“The resistance and the steadfastness of our people forced the Zionists
to withdraw,” he boasted. “The resistance is capable of ending the Israeli
occupation and achieving all our rights. The armed struggle is the only strategy
that Hamas possesses.”

Mashaal reiterated his movement’s refusal to lay down its weapons, saying
Hamas’s duty was to defend the Palestinians and help them restore their rights.
“As long as Palestinian lands remain under occupation, Hamas won’t lay down
its weapons,” he stressed.

He said, however, that Hamas was not interested in a confrontation with the
Palestinian Authority.

“Hamas is not competing with the Palestinian Authority, but we reject
attempts to monopolize power,” he explained.

Mahmoud Zahar, Hamas’s overall leader in the Gaza Strip, said in an interview
published on Wednesday that his movement will move its activities to the West
Bank after the disengagement.

“Now, after the victory in the Gaza Strip, we will transfer the struggle
first to the West Bank and later to Jerusalem,” Zahar told the London-based
pan-Arab daily Asharq Al-Awsat.

“We will continue the struggle until we liberate all our lands. This is an
important day for the Palestinians and proof that the armed struggle has born
fruit.”

Asked about Hamas’s future plans, Zahar said: “Neither the liberation of
the Gaza Strip, nor the liberation of the West Bank or even Jerusalem will
suffice us. Hamas will pursue the armed struggle until the liberation of all our
lands. We don’t recognize the state of Israel or its right to hold onto one inch of
Palestine. Palestine is an Islamic land belonging to all the Muslims.”

Zahar said the disengagement would boost morale in the Arab and Muslim
world and positively influence the [anti-US] campaign in Afghanistan and Iraq.

“We are part of a large global movement called the International Islamic
Movement,” he explained.

Ismail Haniyeh, another Hamas official in the Gaza Strip, expressed his fear that
Israel would target Hamas after the disengagement. He also warned the PA
against cracking down on Hamas supporters as it did in 1996.

Meanwhile, the Popular Resistance Committees, an alliance of various
Palestinian militias operating in the Gaza Strip, said it was planning to transfer
the technology of rocket-manufacturing to the West Bank after the
disengagement.

Muhammed Abdel Al, one of the leaders of the committees, said his group
would move the battle against Israel to the West Bank.

“We will make every effort to transfer all forms of resistance [to the
West Bank] because [Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon intends to move his defeated
soldiers to the West Bank,” he told reporters.

Abdel Al, who is better known by his nickname Abu Abeer, said his group had
already begun transferring the technology of rockets and other military
expertise to the West Bank.

“We will transfer two-thirds of our budget to the West Bank,” he said.
“Our rockets have a range of 18 kilometers. This means that if we fire them
from Kalkilya, they will hit the occupied city of Tal al-Rabi [Tel Aviv].”

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