With all the Palestinian factions united, 'the occupier could be eliminated,' says terror chief

Hamas leader hails turning of ‘new page’ with Egypt

Ismail Haniyeh says Trump ‘trying to eliminate Palestinian issue’

Dov Lieber is The Times of Israel's Arab affairs correspondent.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh greets supporters during a rally to commemorate the 27th anniversary of the Hamas militant group in Jebaliya in the northern Gaza Strip, December 12, 2014 . (AP/Adel Hana)
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh greets supporters during a rally to commemorate the 27th anniversary of the Hamas militant group in Jebaliya in the northern Gaza Strip, December 12, 2014 . (AP/Adel Hana)

Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh on Wednesday, in his first speech as head of the terror group’s political bureau, hailed an era of new relations with Cairo that would ease the blockade of Gaza, and made clear that Hamas has not changed its goal of liberating all of historic Palestine.

In a speech that was meant to show Hamas’s priorities under its new leadership, the 54-year-old native Gazan, speaking from a hotel in Gaza city, strayed little from the tone and content of his predecessor, Khaled Mashaal.

With his characteristic preacher zeal, he railed against “Israeli violations” in Jerusalem and against the al Aqsa Mosque, promised to free Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, and emphasized that “not one inch” of Palestinian land could be relinquished.

“We will remain faithful to the principles of the Palestinian people, and at the forefront is the liberation of the land, of Jerusalem, of the al-Aqsa Mosque, the prisoners, the realization of the Palestinian right of return, and the establishment of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.”

“The release of the prisoners has become closer than ever,” he added, but did not elaborate how such an outcome could occur.

Hamas has denied it is negotiating a prisoner exchange with Israel.

He also slammed the recent efforts of US President Donald Trump to restart peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians.

“We believe that the most dangerous thing official Palestinian policy suffers from is responding to and dealing with repeated American dictates,” he said.

Haniyeh also said that “since the arrival of the American president to power, with the pressure and encouragement of the Zionist enemy,” Trump has been trying to “eliminate the Palestinian issue” by “blackmailing” Arab-Islamic powers “and imposing a so-called historic reconciliation.”

During his speech, Haniyeh gave thanks to the terror group’s state backers, Iran, Turkey and Qatar, as well as to the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

However, Haniyeh emphasized his thanks to Egypt, which he said had agreed to a number of measures that will relieve the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip.

A high-level Hamas delegation spent nine days in Cairo earlier in June, as part of an effort by the terrorist group to improve relations with Egypt, strained since the overthrow of Mohammed Morsi, Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood president, in 2013. Hamas was affiliated with the Brotherhood.

“I declare clearly that we have turned a new page in our relationship [with Egypt],” Haniyeh said.

The new measures, Haniyeh said, include the opening of the Rafah crossing between the Strip and Egypt, as well as a number of humanitarian and economic projects in the Palestinian enclave.

Since late last month, Egypt has sold and sent millions of liters of diesel fuel to Gaza, so the Strip’s only power plant could begin operating again after months of being shut down. It is unclear how long Egypt will continue to send fuel to Gaza, which is seeing 4 to 6 hours of power a day after the Palestinian Authority stopped covering 35 percent of the cost of Israeli-supplied electricity to the Strip.

Egyptian trucks carrying fuel enter Gaza's power plant in Nusseirat, in the central Gaza Strip, Wednesday, June 21, 2017. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
Egyptian trucks carrying fuel enter Gaza’s power plant in Nusseirat, in the central Gaza Strip, June 21, 2017. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

Haniyeh did not mention the reported deal being cooked up between Hamas and Mohammad Dahlan, PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s rival in the Fatah party.

Dahlan is a former Fatah leader and was considered a strongman in Gaza before being ousted in the 2006 coup that brought Hamas to power in the Strip. He was expelled from the Palestinian territories by Abbas in 2011.

Dahlan and Hamas reportedly agreed to establish a new “management committee” of Gaza, which would see the Fatah strongman share control of the Palestinian enclave.

However, Haniyeh did say that reconciliation between Ramallah and Gaza was part of the discussions in Egypt, and that Hamas “welcomes the resumption of Egypt’s central role in the issue of reconciliation and Palestinian nationalism.”

“Fatah won’t eliminate Hamas and Hamas won’t eliminate Fatah,” said Haniyeh, adding that together, with all the Palestinian factions united, “the occupier could be eliminated.”

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