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Mashaal: Today Gaza, tomorrow Jerusalem
Published Friday 07/12/2012 (updated) 09/12/2012 12:17
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Hamas chief Khaled Mashaal prays, with his head to the ground, upon
his arrival at the Rafah crossing in the southern Gaza Strip, Dec. 7, 2012.
(Reuters/Ahmed Jadallah)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Hamas chief Khalid Mashaal made his first visit to the Gaza Strip on Friday, telling crowds he hoped his next visit would be to Jerusalem, Ramallah and a liberated Palestine.

After passing through the Egyptian border crossing, Mashaal knelt on the ground to offer a prayer of thanks and was then greeted by dozens of officials from an array of competing factions lined up to meet him in warm December sun.

Mashaal praised the people of Gaza and the political factions in his first ever speech on Palestinian soil. "We politicians are in debt to the people of Gaza," he said.

The leader was briefly tearful as he was welcomed by Gaza's Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh.

Mashaal said his visit to Gaza was his "third birth" referring to an assassination attempt by Israeli Mossad agents in 1997 as his previous "re-birth."

"I pray to God that my fourth birth will come the day we liberate Palestine," he said, clearly moved by his reception, with uniformed police breaking ranks to try and kiss his hand.

"Today is Gaza. Tomorrow will be Ramallah and after that Jerusalem then Haifa and Jaffa," he said.

Haniyeh welcomed Mashaal's arrival as a historic moment in Palestinian history.

Hamas denied seeking guarantees via Egyptian contacts with Israel that Mashaal would not be targeted for assassination in Gaza. There was massive security for his arrival, with gun-toting, black-masked guards from the Hamas military wing patrolling the streets in open-topped trucks and motorbikes.

"This is the most beautiful day in my life," said 27-year-old policeman, Mohammed Abed. "I kissed him on the head."

Mashaal, 56, had been widely understood not to have set foot in Palestine since he left his native West Bank with his family aged 11. However in his speech he indicated he had returned for a visit as a teenager in 1975.

The Hamas chief visited the home of the late founder and spiritual leader of the party, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, who was assassinated by Israel in 2004.

"Sheikh Ahmad Yassin linked reconciliation and resistance. As Hamas leaders, and From Ahmad Yassin's house, we promise to implement national reconciliation and end the division," he said.

Mashaal visited the homes of Hamas military commander Ahmad al-Jaabari and his bodyguard Mohammad al-Hams, who Israel assassinated on Nov. 14 at the start of its eight day war on Gaza.

He also visited the al-Dalou family home. Israel killed 10 members of the family, including four children and five women, as well as two of their neighbors, in an airstrike on Nov. 18.

"All Palestinians will eventually return to their homeland. Khaled Mashaal is returning after a victory," said veteran Hamas strategist Mahmoud al-Zahar.

Mashaal will stay for a little more than 48 hours in the coastal enclave, which Hamas has ruled since a 2007 war with Fatah that rules the West Bank. Hamas politburo members Mousa Abu Marzouq, Izzat al-Rishq, and Saleh al-Arouri accompanied him.

Hamas plans an open-air rally on Saturday to promote what it says was last month's victory against Israel, and at the same time commemorate the 25th anniversary of the group's founding.

Saturday's rally is not being held on the exact date of Hamas's founding, but on the 25th anniversary of the start of the first Palestinian uprising, or intifada, against Israel.

That is being seen as an overture to other factions and a hint of a new willingness to seek reconciliation with Western-backed President Mahmoud Abbas, who last week won de-facto statehood recognition from the UN General Assembly.

"This is a promise from the leadership of Hamas. We will press ahead with reconciliation to end divisions and to stand united against the Zionist occupation," Mashaal said on Friday.

Gaza City has been festooned with green Hamas flags and a stage set up, complete with a huge model of the makeshift M75 rocket, fired at both Tel Aviv and Jerusalem last month.

Israeli media have barely mentioned Mashaal's return. Israeli officials say the week of round-the-clock bombing raids in November had not only killed al-Jaabari, but also severely depleted Hamas's weapons stockpile.

"They can dance in the streets as much as they like, but their leaders know what damage was inflicted," said a senior Israeli official in Jerusalem, who declined to be named.

However, the conflict clearly boosted Hamas's political standing in the region, winning it the support of Sunni regional powers, such as Qatar, Turkey and Egypt, who dispatched senior delegations to Gaza in a rare and public display of solidarity.

Reuters contributed to this report
1 ) Esam / Venezuela
07/12/2012 15:35
What an emotional moment this is! Mashaal, welcome back!!!

2 ) rami / jerusalem
07/12/2012 16:14
yeh well ..after that haifa akka nazareth etc

3 ) Jon / USA
07/12/2012 16:27
Jerusalem next...keep dreaming ha!

4 ) matt / usa
07/12/2012 16:29
He can go to jerusalem anytime he wants

5 ) @ Esam-1 / Reality
07/12/2012 16:46
-a- You are so very right that "this is an emotional moment,"
-b- If Mashaal ever visits "Jerusalem tomorrow", without an intention to negotiate, compromise, recognize Israel, and end the conflict forever, then
-c- The very next day he will be in an Israeli jail !!!

6 ) Paul / USA
07/12/2012 16:49
Use this emotional event to unify. May I suggest the main quideline. The stopping point is always Fatah renounces terrorism & recognizes Israel. Hamas will not. Hamas must do the same in writing before UN & world. This is Israel's main excuse that allows them to keep building using security as a main point. In said writing stipulate recognition of Israel to the greenline ONLY - nowhere beyond. Anything over greenline is Palestine. UN, EU and even US will have to back it. Pals win their freedom!

7 ) Paul / USA
07/12/2012 17:08
Part 2 on guideline: With this plan Holy Mt. is retained. If this plan is NOT followed Hamas will remain a terrorist to the world, particularly the West & US which call the military shots. Just enough rockets will be allowed to pass to Hamas so they will shoot them justifying Israel crushing them entirely. US, or a coalition as with Iraq, will attack Iran to stop flow to Hamas & Hezbullah & eliminate nuclear threat as well. Join with Fatah - avoid this blood shed. UNITE use wisdom & UN - UNITE!

8 ) Yehuda Solomon / Israel
07/12/2012 17:58
"Today is Gaza ... Tomorrow will be Ramallah (oh !!! ... he STILL doesn't recognize there IS Palestinian possession ALREADY over there, right ??? ... and this man wants Palestinian "unity" ???) ... and next day is Jerusalem ... and then Tel Aviv, Jaffa, Haifa, the Galilee and finally all of ISRAEL !!!" ... Y-E-S-S-S-S-S-S !!! SAME OLD DAMN BLABBERING !!! ... By the time we're done with our settlement and development expansions, he won't even recognize where the hell he's been.

9 ) Outlier / USA
07/12/2012 18:10
Jerusalem? Pure hyperbole.

10 ) @ Paul-6 / USA too
07/12/2012 23:32
They will NOT give-up power to "unify", but soon Mursi of Egypt, Assad of Syria, Maashal of Gaza will All be gone, and Palestine's leadership will remain split, in two separate states: - a Gaza that remains blockaded, and - a West Bank that remains little more that a "paper" state, existing only on unenforceable UN resolutions, which itself gradually becomes splits (north & south) by Jewish construction on Area E-1, while - Israel's leadership remains strong, united, and secure forever !

08/12/2012 08:29
to the heart and mind of all ISRAELIS--peace is around the corner by the way---he ONLY TALKS ABOUT LAND, CONQUEST, NOT PEACE!

12 ) southparkbear / usa
08/12/2012 08:39
hehehe, he can't make it to nablus

13 ) @ @Paul/USA too / USA again
09/12/2012 00:34
10) Sadly I must agree with you,... it appears hopeless if Abbas and PA depend on unity with Hamas as a precursor for any action to the UN. Hamas will NEVER recognize Israel to the Greenline or anywhereelse for that matter. Better to die with honor than live with shame of accepting the lies of false Zionism. Why think that any way can help the poor Palestinians? They are better off to hope in an Israeli total state & citizenship in that like the Israeli Arabs of 1948. Un is Zionist controlled

14 ) ian / australia
09/12/2012 01:47
Compare the incredible genuiness of Khaled Meshaal's emotional return to Palestinian soil (which he left as an 11-year-old) with the arrival of an economic settler at their new subsidised home or psychopaths from Brooklyn making Aliyah to the "home" of their "ancestors" (which commonsense says is obviously Europe or Eurasia not that it remotely matters). Everything about the Palestinian experience is real. Everything about the Jewish experience is fake and contrived. You feel it on the street.

15 ) ian / australia
09/12/2012 01:51
(contd.) One group just belongs there. It is their REAL home. The other group is alien, ill-at-ease, neurotic, awkward (see #8)...for all the gaudiness and shrillness of their claims to have "returned" "home". The image of Khaled Meshaal, the big lug, sobbing uncontrolably as he kisses the ground of his homeland says it all. Justice for Palestine.

16 ) ian / australia
10/12/2012 11:59
#4 "He can go to jerusalem anytime he wants" Of course he can't go to Jerusalem. There are people in Bethlehem who visited the Aqsa as children before 1967 and haven't been allowed back. Why would they let him? But I have a question for you matt. Why are you so awful? You and #3, #9, #12. Look at #1 Esam / Venezuela. That is a response of simple human decency. Why is that beyond you? Even Yehuda who is stark raving mad has a kindness in him. Look at Paul /USA #6-#7 and his infinitely

17 ) ian / australia
10/12/2012 12:00
(contd.) reasonable guideline to break the deadlock based purely on a desire to see some justice for others. These people are normal matt. What is it with you?

18 ) ian / australia
13/12/2012 00:40
Khaled Meshaal's visit to Gaza was interesting. Nit-pickers call his message contradictory: Palestine from river to sea, never recognise the "Entity" or renounce violent "resistance" though "reconciliation means the unity of the political program … one president and one parliament and one representative, which is the PLO", the UN upgrade was an important step and a great achievement and Palestine on the '67 line with "not an inch of land swaps" is the current formal offer. But read carefully,

19 ) ian / australia
13/12/2012 00:40
(contd.) he's quite consistant. He reiterated "resistance" as the policy of Hamas, not co-operation because he knows the amoral nature of the enemy. And why should he recognise a rogue entity which behaves in a criminal manner and has no defined borders? (And refuses to even acknowlege that a genuine offer has been made.) He mightn't know exactly what to DO under the banner of "resistance" but he knows how to BE: steadfast. Like resistance in Algeria, India and Nazi-occupied France.

20 ) ian / australia
13/12/2012 00:41
(contd.) He was tut-tutted as too extreme but what I heard was soaring rhetoric indistinguishable from Obama's line in uplifting BS. Bibi's flights of fantasy ("Jerusalem is the eternal and undivided capital of the Jewish people...we have a right to build in Judea and Samaria") are easily the equal of Meshaal in hyperbole. So, an interesting visit. Emotional and moving...he sobbed as he kissed the soil of the homeland, like a big bear in a suit, cried at the press conference and was comforted

21 ) ian / australia
13/12/2012 00:42
(contd.) and kissed by another big bear (Ismail Haniyeh)...all so emotional, non-Western and "Arabic". It inspired the besieged and traumatised people of Gaza, reaffirming that their cause is right, morally, legally...and that ULTIMATELY, despite the cunning and resolve of their enemy, they will prevail. (Sorry, this is so long. Fully accept TLDR response.)

22 ) Yehuda Solomon / Israel
13/12/2012 20:16
@ 16), (Ha !) THANKS for that "compliment." ... Excellent points in all your posts--you're absolute proof no one should ever accuse MNA of being biased towards the "Zionist entities" on these boards--but let's get this straight: Much sense in 18), 19) because yes, we are not (and will not) behave "rationally" according to what the world's perspective of what should be just and logical behavior; hence, you're right in that regard for supporting Mashaal. After all, how else would you (cont.)

23 ) Yehuda Solomon / Israel
13/12/2012 20:37
expect Mashaal to think and behave ??? ... Not too differently but know this: He would not be satisfied even IF the majority of Palestinians--including majorities of Hamas/other allied factions--would agree to Israel's existence even if we went back to 1967. No, his resistance would still manifest itself by active war against us for killing our very soul and survival (as a nation, NOT as a people). Translation: No, he/allied factions would definitely know what to do (and DO it). Now, (cont.)

24 ) Yehuda Solomon / Israel
13/12/2012 20:51
in 20), you're saying his rhetoric (of that genre) is on par with Obama's "rhetoric ???" ... about what, exactly ??? Obama's insistence on Mashaal/other allied factions TO recognize us ??? So you're saying there's an "equivalence" between someone's "rhetoric" about us being better off dead than alive as a nation and someone else saying everyone should at least be decent enough to give us national recognition ??? ... Right ??? That's 100% crazy. As counter hyperbole to each other, I (cont.)

25 ) Yehuda Solomon / Israel
13/12/2012 21:11
fully agree with you about the parity of Mashaal's and Netanyahu's speech (again, that's HOW--not what--they speak). Whoever ultimately prevails will not be determined by Palestinian demographics (another wrong, 100% asinine belief by everyone who doesn't understand us based on famed "logic" and "rationality" from their understanding of morality and history, esp. by equating our situation with S. Africa's) or cunning but yes, on our resolve and actions (that IS correct). We'll prove it to you.

26 ) ian / australia
15/12/2012 01:09
#22-#25 '(Ha !) THANKS for that "compliment." ' You're welcome. "in 20), you're saying his rhetoric (of that genre) is on par with Obama's "rhetoric ???" ... about what, exactly ???" Just generally Yehuda. No specifics. Obama says things like, "America is the greatest nation in history, beloved by all, our achievements the envy of the world..." which is clearly unsupported hyperbole designed to stir the masses. Meshaal says, "The land of Palestine from river to sea is the inalienable birthright

27 ) ian / australia
15/12/2012 01:10
(contd.) of the Palestinian people. We will never give up our birthright or accept the presence of the occupying "Entity" '. The hyperbole and its aim to stir beyond what's entirely rational is just the same. (The subtlety in Meshaal's message is that it DOESN'T preclude the idea of ACCEPTING that Jews control the bulk of Palestine, not the LEGITIMACY of it, but as a political reality. As pragmatic Realpolitik, he will accept a state on 22% of Palestine, if the people want it, even "recognise"

28 ) ian / australia
15/12/2012 01:10
(contd.) Israeli political sovereignty in the remaining 78%, but eternally contend that the WHOLE will ALWAYS be the authentic birthright which was stolen.)
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