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Friday, December 7, 2012
Mashall: Today Gaza: Tomorrow Ramallah. After that Jerusalem then Haifa and Jaffa

[Dr. Aaron Lerner - IMRA: A reminder to the Israeli analysts who have
suggested that Israel start working with "moderate" Mashall:

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

Mashaal: Today Gaza, tomorrow Jerusalem
Published today (updated) 07/12/2012 15:48
http://www.maannews.net/eng/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=545819

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.

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 will visit the home of the late founder and spiritual leader
of the party, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, who was assassinated by Israel in 2004,
and 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.

The Hamas chief will also visit 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.

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

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