Less than a week after reaching a ceasefire agreement with Israel, Hamas’s Gaza prime minister on Tuesday outlined the movement’s next goal in its struggle: the West Bank.
After eight days of intense fighting in Israel, the strip’s Islamist rulers emerged in the Palestinian narrative as victorious against Israel, managing to sideline Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on the Arab street and reignite talks of unification between the factions.
Hamas has historically been only a marginal force in the West Bank, but with its newfound popularity, Gaza Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said his group was looking to expand its reach into the Palestinian heartland in its bid to lay claim to the land.
“The West Bank will be central in deciding the struggle with the occupation,” Ismail Haniyeh declared during a ceremony honoring the victims of Operation Pillar of Defense in Gaza.
“[The West Bank] is central for its historic and geographic value, as well as its proximity to the enemy’s occupied cities.”
Haniyeh defined the present days as an intermediate stage between two historic phases; the first including ‘preparation and development’ and the second characterized by ‘mobilization and liberation of our land and our Jerusalem’
Delegations from Israel and Hamas arrived in Cairo Monday to discuss — through the mediation of Egypt’s General Intelligence Serivce — the details of a ceasefire reached on November 21.
Moussa Abu-Marzouq, deputy head of Hamas’s political bureau, told London-based daily A-Sharq Al-Awsat that while negotiations revolve around easing the closure of Gaza, Hamas has never committed to disarming.
“The skies remain open if the ceasefire agreement is breached in any way,” Abu-Marzouq told the daily, referring to the possibility of resuming rocket attacks against Israel.
Haniyeh reassured his audience that while the ceasefire may last “for days or years,” Hamas’s strategic choice remains armed struggle.
“When we say that things will calm down for days or years, this is part of a [wider] vision. This action requires us to adopt resistance as a strategic choice, and give ourselves a long breath.”
Haniyeh defined the present days as an intermediate stage between two historic phases; the first including “preparation and development” and the second characterized by “mobilization and liberation of our land and our Jerusalem.”
‘The skies remain open if the ceasefire agreement is breached in any way,’ Abu-Marzouq told A-Sharq Al-Awsat, alluding to the possibility of resuming rocket attacks against Israel
The land in question, Haniyeh stressed, is not merely Gaza, the West Bank and Jerusalem — a subtle reference to PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s recent Channel 2 interview in which he acknowledged all land beyond the Green Line as “Israel” — but rather “Palestine as we know it, whose borders were drawn by our heroes from Ras Al-Naqoura to Rafah and from the [Mediterranean] Sea to the [Jordan] River.”
Ras al Naqoura is the Arab name for the northern Israeli town of Rosh Hanikra.
Meanwhile, London-based daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi shed new light Tuesday on Syria’s move to shut Hamas’s offices in Damascus earlier this month.
According to Palestinian sources living in Syria, the Assad regime decided to crack down on Hamas based on intelligence information indicating that a large number of fighters belonging to the “Grandchildren of the Prophet,” an opposition group active in south Damascus and the Yarmouk refugee camp, were Hamas loyalists.
Hamas’s leadership left Damascus in January citing its objection to the Assad regime, but has never admitted to actively assisting the Syrian opposition.