HEBRON (Ma’an) -- Years after Hamas stopped celebrating its anniversary in Hebron in the southern West Bank, around 6,000 supporters rallied Friday in the city center.
The rally kicked off from al-Haras Mosque marching toward Ibn Rushd school. Supporters waved Hamas’ green flags, while a small number of demonstrators waved Palestinian flags. They chanted pro-Hamas slogans applauding the victory Hamas fighters achieved in the Gaza Strip against Israel in November.
A Ma'an reporter observed an Israeli drone hovered over Hebron during the rally.
Demonstrators gathered at a playground in Ibn Rushn school where they listened to speeches by Hamas leaders. A recorded speech by Hamas politburo member Osama Hamdan was played in which he greeted the celebrators in Hebron.
Hamdan reminded the listeners of the Hamas-affiliated "martyrs" from Hebron highlighting that a large number of Hamas supporters from the district were detained in Israeli jails.
Special focus in Hamdan’s speech was given to hunger striking prisoners Ayman Sharawneh and Samir al-Issawi. He asserted that resistance is a thorough project which won't stop. He also pointed out that Hamas would insist on achieving reconciliation with its rival Fatah, noting that the PLO should be reconstructed "so as to be able to meet the Palestinian people’s expectations and hopes."
Gaza premier Ismail Haniyeh addressed the supporters in Hebron via telephone sending more greetings to the West Bank “which raged in support of the Gaza Strip during the 8-day Israeli military offensive in November."
He said: "You were partners in achieving victory in that battle."
Haniyeh maintained that reconciliation should be achieved as soon as possible expressing Hamas' pleasure at being allowed to celebrate the movement’s anniversary in the West Bank cities "though both Hamas and other Palestinian factions have the right to celebrate."
Haniyeh said he had taken serious decisions in the Gaza Strip to lay the ground for reconciliation.
Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine central committee member Abdul-Alim Dana spoke on behalf of the Palestinian factions in Hebron greeting Hamas and maintaining the importance of national unity.
All factions and political parties in Hebron district have already closed ranks to be able to confront the Israeli "aggression on the Palestinian people," he said.
Speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council Aziz Dweik highlighted that Hamas celebrations in the West Bank raised a slogan of "national unity and victory against the occupier."
Dweik urged President Mahmoud Abbas to put an end to foreign intervention in the internal Palestinian affairs, calling on him and the Palestinian Authority leadership to avoid resuming talks with Israel "because negotiations failed to end Israeli aggression on the Palestinian people."
Palestinian forces later stopped a small group of protesters from going toward a nearby Israeli military checkpoint. The youths responded by throwing stones at the police.
Organizers told Ma'an that Hamas chose to hold its anniversary celebration at Al-Haras Mosque because it symbolizes Hamas' history in Hebron. A large number of Hamas leaders in Hebron, especially leaders of the military wing, were raised in that mosque.
Hamas and Fatah say they hope to translate their accomplishments in Gaza and the UN into a long-promised unity agreement, and Hamas allowed Fatah demonstrators to celebrate the UN move in Gaza, another unprecedented sight since their 2007 split.
However, some demonstrators at a Hamas rally in Nablus on Thursday said they were uneasy about exposing themselves so openly as supporters of the Islamist group.
"It's still not safe for us. We are outside celebrating now, but the security forces will come make their arrests tomorrow like always," said Salem Riyad, wearing a leather jacket and a green headband across his forehead.Reuters contributed to this report.