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Haniyeh: World must back Goldstone's Gaza report

Sept. 20, 2009 9:01 A.M. (Updated: Sept. 22, 2009 10:24 A.M.)
Gaza – Ma’an – De facto Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh urged world powers on Sunday to embrace a recently-released report on alleged war crimes committed during Israel’s recent war on the Gaza Strip.

“We hope the report … will not be doomed to the fate of the dozens of reports that Israel has condemned for decades,” referring to the report of the fact-finding mission led by Justice Richard Goldstone.

Released last week, Goldstone’s 575-page report drew criticism from the US and Israel for its finding that Israel committed war crimes during the attack on Gaza. While the report focuses on Israel, it also calls for further investigations into alleged violations by Palestinian armed groups.

Responding to the alleged Palestinian violations, Haniyeh said he “affirm[s] our right to self-defense under international law.”

Haniyeh specifically asked the Arab League and European countries to use all means to make sure the report is brought to the attention to the UN Security Council and then referred to prosecutors.

Israeli, Palestinian, and international human rights groups reported that more than 1,400 Palestinians were killed during the three-week war, including more than 700 civilians.

The Hamas leader was speaking to a mass prayer session and rally in Yarmouk Stadium in Gaza City, shortly after dawn on Sunday morning, the first day of the Eid Al-Fitr holiday at the end of the month of Ramadan. Some 30,000 men, women and children filled the football pitch. Palestinian and Hamas flags flew from the goal posts.

Shedding his usual suit for the robes and headdress of a Sheikh, Haniyeh said that this first Eid after the war in January is “An Eid of victory.”

“This Eid is your Eid, the Samouni family,” he said, referring to a Gaza family that lost 29 of its members when Israeli forces herded them into one building and then shelled it. “This is our Eid.”

Haniyeh also referred to the current US push for renewed peace negotiations, arguing that the position of the Obama administration is no different from previous administrations, in that it calls for Palestinians to relinquish their rights.

“From Gaza, from a place of strength, we say we will not relinquish our rights.”

The prime minister also spoke about the situation in Jerusalem and the West Bank. He issued a Fatwa against Palestinians working for companies that are building illegal Israeli settlements.

Martyrs Cemetery

Also on Sunday morning, Palestinian families carried out an Eid tradition: visiting the graves of those killed in the struggle against the Israeli occupation.

At the Sheikh Radwan Cemetery, dozens of families visited the tombs of their loved ones, mainly “Martyrs” killed in the two Intifadas and the recent war. Hamas leaders Ahmad Yassin, Abdul Aziz Rantisi, and Said Siyam are buried there. Some washed the gravestones. Others sat and contemplated. Some wept. A sign in Arabic hanging at the gate of the warned that the graveyard is full, urging locals not to bury more bodies.

One woman, dressed in black sat weeping at the grave of her son, Ramadan Abu Kheir, a police officer who was killed in the massive airstirkes that began the war on 27 December.

“She hasn’t stopped crying since the day her son died,” said another female relative sitting by her side.

The woman said she hadn’t heard Haniyeh’s speech earlier. Asked if she agreed with Haniyeh that this was an “Eid of victory,” she said “Insha’Allah,” God willing.

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