Hamas terror chief Ismail Haniyeh on Friday hailed Hamas’s “victory” in the recent hostilities with Israel, saying it had foiled attempts by Israel to integrate into the Arab world.
He also thanked Iran for the funds and weaponry it has provided to the Strip.
“This battle has destroyed the project of ‘coexistence’ with the Israeli occupation, of the project ‘normalization’ with Israel,” Haniyeh said from Qatar, where he has been residing, apparently referring to the widespread clashes between Israeli Arabs and Jews and Israel’s recent peace agreements with four Arab nations.
Several Arab countries, such as Israel’s neighbor Jordan, saw thousands gather to protest Israeli airstrikes on Gaza during the fighting. Morocco, a country that recently began forming closer ties with Israel, also saw widespread pro-Palestinian rallies.
“We saw our Arab and Islamic nation arose, from east to west, in all its components and factions, behind Jerusalem and Palestine and the resistance,” Haniyeh said.
The Hamas chief further hailed what he deemed to be the terror group’s God-given triumph over Israel in the latest round of fighting.
“This is a divine victory…This harsh blow will leave a deep impact on [Israel],” Haniyeh said, later adding: “Praise to you, God, for this blessed, awesome victory.”
While Israel will struggle to restore ties with its Arab minority after the riots and attacks, it was not immediately evident that the fighting was detrimental to its new ties with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morrocco.
Egypt, another Arab nation with a peace agreement with Israel, played a major role in negotiating the ceasefire.
“Thank you President [Abdel Fattah] el-Sissi for your important role in restoring calm and advancing security and stability in our region,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted Friday afternoon.
Haniyeh also vowed to continue to focus on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount “until Al-Aqsa Mosque is liberated.” Hamas fired rockets at Jerusalem last Monday following a weekend of clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinian rioters at the sacred hilltop, sparking Israeli retaliation which led to the war in Gaza.
“Jerusalem is the axis of the struggle… Gaza rose up so as to defend Jerusalem,” Haniyeh said.
“Gaza bore the sword of Jerusalem with merit and dignity, and taught the enemy a lesson he shall not forget,” Haniyeh continued.
The terror leader hailed recent protests by West Bank Palestinians as well as mob violence by Arab Israelis over the past few days. He also praised the tens of thousands who participated in pro-Palestinian demonstrations around the world.
“There is an intifada (uprising) today in the West Bank, a revolution inside the 1948 borders, and an amazing mobilization in the diaspora,” Haniyeh said.
Haniyeh also called for Hamas to strengthen its relationship with the international community.
“There is enormous support in the Western and European worlds… even in the European capitals,” Haniyeh said, referring to protests.
The Old City compound saw fresh clashes on Friday.
It was not immediately clear how the confrontation had erupted. According to Israeli police, officers acted to contain a riot by Palestinian worshippers at the scene.
“Immediately after the noon prayer, a riot broke out on the Temple Mount by hundreds of young people that included throwing stones and throwing a Molotov cocktail at the forces,” Israel Police said in a statement.
The clashes marked the first test of the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. Frictions at the holy site — with Israeli security forces entering the compound and clashing with Palestinian rioters — were a major factor in the tensions that preceded Hamas’s rocket fire at Jerusalem on May 10, at the start of the 11-day conflict in which over 200 Gazans and 12 Israelis were killed.
The Temple Mount is the holiest site in Judaism, as the site of both biblical temples. It is holy to Muslims as the site of the third holiest shrine in Islam, the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Palestinian terror groups have tied rocket fire from Gaza — which ceased early on Friday morning as the ceasefire took effect — to unrest in Jerusalem connected to both prayer on the Temple Mount during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, as well as the pending eviction of a number of Palestinian families from the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood.
Israeli politicians have said the ceasefire was unconditional, with “calm in exchange for calm.” Hamas said that it demanded Israeli concessions at the Temple Mount in exchange for the truce.
Palestinians across the West Bank and Gaza celebrated the ostensible Hamas success in the conflict on Friday afternoon, holding large marches in major Palestinian cities.
“Fatah, Hamas, independents — everyone is happy. Maybe they’re jealous and had hoped their own faction would have a greater role, but even so — they’re pleased. Every patriot is thrilled…that our cause has again shaken the world,” wrote Alaa Abu Diab, a popular comedian and commentator, in a Facebook post.
In a protest at Ramallah’s Al-Manara Square, dozens of distinctive green flags with Arabic-language calligraphy could be spotted. The flags are widely seen as symbols of political Islam, and are also often used by Hamas supporters.
Demonstrators called out slogans hailing Hamas’s shadowy military commander and terror chief, Mohammad Deif, in the heart of the Fatah-dominated West Bank.
“Put sword against sword, we are Mohammad Deif’s men,” the protesters chanted in downtown Ramallah.
Immediately after the ceasefire, Hamas claimed victory as thousands of people took to the streets of Gaza early Friday to celebrate.
Throughout Friday morning and early afternoon, no rockets had been fired at Israel since a ceasefire went into effect at 2 a.m, indicating an Egyptian-brokered truce between Israel and the Gaza terror groups was holding.
There were also no reports of Israeli strikes on the Gaza Strip.
As the truce started, a frenzy of life returned to the streets of Gaza. People came out of their homes, some shouting “Allahu Akbar” or whistling from balconies. Many fired in the air, celebrating the end of the fighting.
“This is the euphoria of victory,” said Khalil al-Hayya, a senior Hamas figure, in front of a crowd of thousands of Palestinians who had gathered in the streets to celebrate.
Thousands also gathered Friday morning in the southern Gaza Strip town of Khan Younis outside the family house of Deif, the shadowy commander of the Hamas military wing, the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, who had ordered the rocket attacks. Supporters shouted “victory” and waved green Hamas flags.
Ali Barakeh, an official with Islamic Jihad, a smaller terror group that fought alongside Hamas, said Israel’s declaration of a truce was a defeat for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and “a victory to the Palestinian people.”
Palestinians also came out into the streets in West Bank towns and in East Jerusalem, with some setting off fireworks in celebration.
In the Arab Israeli town of Umm el-Fahm, a convoy of cars drove through the streets, honking their horns and waving Palestinian flags.
Hamas and other Gaza terror groups launched over 4,000 projectiles at Israel since May 10, at times forcing people living near Gaza into bomb shelters around the clock. Israel, in response, carried out an extensive bombing campaign in the Gaza Strip.
Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry says 232 people, including more than 66 minors, have been killed by Israeli strikes over the past 10 days. According to the IDF, more than 120 of those killed were members of Hamas and over 25 were members of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad as of Monday night. The IDF also says some of the Gaza civilian fatalities were killed by the terror groups’ own rockets falling short and exploding in Gaza.
Twelve people in Israel, including a 5-year-old boy and a 16-year-old girl, were killed in rocket fire, and hundreds were injured.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.