Hamas Leader Vows Never to Recognize Israel

Posted December 8th, 2012 at 1:15 pm (UTC-5)
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Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal has vowed never to cede any territory to Israel or to recognize the Jewish state, in a speech in Gaza marking the 25th anniversary of the Palestinian militant group.

Speaking to more than 100,000 people in Gaza City, Meshaal said Palestine belongs to the Palestinian people, from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River. He said the land will remain Islamic and Arabic.

He also said armed resistance is the only way for Palestinians to recover their rights.

The sea of Hamas supporters at the rally waved green flags representing the militant group and chanted Hamas slogans. Meshaal's speech was hailed as historic by many onlookers. The Hamas leader was making his first visit ever to Gaza.

Meshaal was born in what is now the West Bank in 1956; his family left their home after the Six-Day War between Israel and Arab forces in 1967. He has led Hamas' paramilitary forces and political organization since 2004, when an earlier Hamas leader was assassinated.

Saturday's rally was only two weeks after a truce brokered by Egypt ended the deadliest fighting between Israel and Gaza in recent years.

Meshaal congratulated the Palestinian resistance for remaining steadfast during the eight-day conflict.

Several countries sent delegations to the Hamas celebration. Hamas, which ousted its Palestinian rival Fatah from Gaza in 2007, rules the Gaza Strip. Fatah now leads a government in the West Bank.

Meshaal set foot in Gaza for the first time Friday after crossing from Egypt. The Hamas chief had visited the Palestinian territories supervised by Israel only once during 45 years in exile, for a brief visit in 1975. He has been leading the Islamic militant movement from Qatar.

Meshaal was nearly assassinated in Jordan in 1997 by Israeli agents who squirted a deadly poison into his ear. He survived only when international mediators persuaded Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to give Meshaal an antidote.

Israel and the West consider Hamas a terrorist group.