Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, at a massive rally Thursday celebrating the 30th anniversary of the terror group’s inception, denied the existence of the State of Israel and swore to force the United States to reverse its decision to recognize Jerusalem as its capital.
“There is no such thing as the State of Israel, so it cannot have a capital called Jerusalem,” said Haniyeh to a crowd of tens of thousands of supporters, many waving the movement’s green flag or sporting Hamas headbands.
Masked Hamas terrorists 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 gunman with a Palestinian flag and a rifle formed the backdrop. “Jerusalem is the capital of Palestine” read the caption, in Arabic and English.
“We will work on forcing the American administration to reverse its unjust decision,” added Haniyeh. “Our goal is to break the American position. We will bring down the Trump decision once and for all.”
In an address last Wednesday from the White House, Trump insisted that after repeated failures to achieve peace, a new approach was long overdue, describing his decision to recognize Jerusalem as the seat of Israel’s government as merely based on reality.
The move was hailed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and by leaders across much of the Israeli political spectrum. Trump stressed that he was not specifying the boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in the city, and called for no change in the status quo at the city’s holy sites.
Hamas responded by immediately calling for a new intifada to liberate Jerusalem. It has allowed thousands of Gazans to access the border fence and confront Israeli troops in recent days, and more than a dozen rockets have been fired at Israel from Gaza.
“We salute the beginning of rage, intifada and revolution,” Haniyeh told the large crowd that filled a sprawling lot known as al-Katiba Square.
The Hamas leader went on to call on all Arab and Muslims nations to set aside every Friday henceforth for days of rage until the Trump administration reversed its decision.
Trump’s announcement was followed by violent Palestinian protests in the West Bank and Gaza, but the protests subsided considerably after Friday, and it remains unclear whether a full-fledged uprising is developing.
Israel holds Hamas responsible for what have been nightly rocket attacks this week, since the terror group controls security in the Gaza Strip. It has a unit that patrols the Strip in order to prevent rocket attacks it doesn’t want in order to avoid retaliation.
Hamas’s rival, the Fatah movement of West Bank-based Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, says it 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, including Israel.
Israel claims all of Jerusalem as its capital, having extended sovereignty throughout the city after capturing East Jerusalem from Jordan in the 1967 war.
The 30-year anniversary comes at a difficult time in Hamas’s turbulent history. A decade after seizing Gaza by force from Fatah, it has been compelled to seek reconciliation with Abbas’s party.
An Egyptian-brokered reconciliation deal signed in October has seen Hamas give up control of Gaza’s crossings, but differences over collecting revenues and the future of the group’s armed forces hinder its progress.
The coastal territory suffers from 43 percent unemployment and worsening blackouts, in part because of Abbas’s refusal to pay its electricity bills. In recent days, rolling blackouts lasted for 24 hours, followed by four hours of electricity.