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Victory celebrations in the streets of Gaza after prayers

Aug. 29, 2014 6:47 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 31, 2014 10:42 A.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Palestinians across the Gaza Strip turned out in the thousands for prayers and a victory march on Friday, as many savored their first opportunity in 50 days to attend Friday prayers in Gaza mosques without fear of Israeli bombardment.

Although a local council estimates one-third of mosques were damaged in the Israeli assault -- including 72 totally destroyed -- Palestinians flocked to services as political leaders took to the podiums to stress the need for national unity after what they deemed an unprecedented victory against Israel.

Senior Hamas official Khalil al-Hayya said during a Friday prayer sermon in a mosque in the devastated eastern Gaza neighborhood of Shujaiyya that Palestinians have entered "a new age today and a new stage of national unity by choosing to win and support the resistance."

"The war on Gaza should eliminate all previous internal disagreements," he added, calling upon the national unity government to fulfill its responsibilities related to ensuring Israel open the borders and allow reconstruction.

"In this war, we captured back the rights that Israel stole while taking the (political) division as an excuse," he said, highlighting that since a April 24 Palestinian unity agreement the nation was better equipped to confront Israeli aggression.

On Tuesday, Palestinian forces signed a long-term ceasefire agreement with Israel in what many deemed a major victory for the resistance against Israel, after a seven-week bombardment that left more than 2,140 dead and more than 100,000 homeless.

Israel conceded to key Palestinian demands -- including "easing" the eight-year old siege, reducing the 500-meter buffer zone near the border, and extending the fishing zone off the coast -- while also giving up its primary demand, the demilitarization of Gaza.

Although other Palestinian demands remain unfulfilled and are still left to be discussed at a second round of talks in September, celebrations have broken out across Palestine in recent days.

On Friday, many joined a march organized by the militant group Palestinian Islamic Jihad to celebrate what they called a "victory of the resistance."

Marches set off from mosques in Gaza City following Friday prayers and ended at a stage in al-Wihda Street, where members of the al-Quds Brigades, Islamic Jihad's armed wing, paraded through the streets.

"Today, we are celebrating the third Israeli offensive on besieged civilians and the third achievement on the way to liberating Jerusalem," Muhammad al-Hindi, a Jihad official, said.

The senior official thanked all those that supported the Palestinians during the offensive, and called for a new national strategy involving the rebuilding of the PLO.

The Palestinian Authority must stop all security coordination with Israel, he said, adding that the Palestinians must go to the ICC to pursue Israeli war criminals.

The al-Quds Brigades also announced the appointment of a new military spokesperson, known as Abu Hamza.

Israel was 'defeated'

Deputy head of Hamas politburo Moussa Abu Marzouq said in a press conference in Rafah that Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu had "achieved none of his terms during the indirect negotiations in Cairo," particularly regarding the key Israeli demand for Palestinian disarmament.

“They were defeated in their ground operations," he added, stressing that in addition to the 64 soldiers killed and more than 1,000 soldiers wounded, "Ben Gurion Airport was hit for the first time."

"We won the ground operation and we won the aerial operation," he continued, adding that the ceasefire with Israel is not permanent.

"Gaza taught all of the world's nations how to resist and fight back, and what it is like to win."

At the same time, however, Abu Marzouq acknowledged that the ceasefire deal with Israel had not immediately accomplished all of Palestinian demands.

Despite a promise to ease the eight-year siege of Gaza, restrict the border buffer zone, and increase the fishing areas allotted to Palestinian fisherman, he acknowledged that the issues of re-opening the airport and seaport as well as ensuring freedom of movement between the Gaza Strip and West Bank "had to be delayed."

He said, however, that negotiations will continue in Cairo in a month and that negotiations would not have a limit.

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