Meshaal: Israeli assault strengthened Palestinian national unity
Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal on Thursday said that the Israeli assault on Gaza had failed to undermine Palestinian national unity and that the bloody offensive of the past seven weeks had "proven that the resistance cannot be blockaded."
"Israel wanted to attack national unity and is currently looking for an imaginary victory," he said, in a press conference in which he congratulated the Palestinian people on their "victory" in confronting Israel in a more than 50-day assault that ended earlier this week.
Meshaal said that "without the popular support in Gaza, the resistance would not have won. One of the targets of the assault was to strike the national Palestinian reconciliation, because Palestinian reconciliation was firm throughout the assault in (the battle) and negotiations."
"When Israel failed in its siege of Gaza they chose to destroy it, but it is the duty of the unity government and the world to rebuild it," he added, referring to an April agreement between all major Palestinian factions that established a united government for the first time in seven years, which Israel strongly condemned at the time.
Meshaal also demanded that Egypt open the Rafah crossing, and called upon Israel to end its occupation of Palestinian lands and allow the Palestinian people to determine their path.
"We have no problem with Jews or their religion. Our problem is with occupation and settlement activities."
The Hamas leader insisted the weapons of the resistance groups were "sacred" and that Palestinians would not accede to any demand to disarm.
"The leaders of occupation are looking through the telescope for a delusional victory to talk about," he added.
Meshaal also thanked Turkey, Malaysia, South Africa, and the nations of Latin America that had been steadfast in their support for Palestine and the Palestinian resistance.
"The people of Gaza have become a symbol of steadfastness and an honorable example to all the world. All Palestinians in Gaza and free people in the world are partners in this victory."
The speech comes amid widespread celebrations in Palestine over what many leaders are calling a major victory against Israel, after Israeli leaders agreed in a ceasefire to "ease" the eight-year long siege on the Gaza Strip, curtail a border buffer zone from more than 500 meters to 100, and expand the offshore fishing zone allotted Gazans from three nautical miles to 12.
Other Palestinian demands are to be discussed in a new round of talks in September, including the potential re-opening of an airport and seaport as well as the release of prisoners Israel arrested over the last summer in violation of the 2011 Gilad Shalit release deal.
Israel had long said that the disarmament of Gaza military groups way a key requirement for any ceasefire, but appeared to have backed down at the last minute earlier this week, in a move Palestinian leaders hailed.
'Tough' negotiations ahead
A member of the Palestinian negotiations delegation, meanwhile, warned on Thursday that the talks coming up in September to discuss further terms of the long-term ceasefire with Israel will be "tough."
Secretary-General of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine and member of the Palestinian parliament Qais Abd al-Karim said in a statement that although all Palestinian political factions had agreed upon the ceasefire agreement, what ahd been accomplished so far was only "half of a success."
Abd al-Karim said that the "negotiations battle" would begin next month to achieve all Palestinian demands and rights, including the complete end of the Israeli siege on Gaza.
In relation to the rebuilding of Gaza, Abd al-Karim said that an agreement had been reached with humanitarian institutions to begin rebuilding and that it is "supposed to begin immediately to allow tens of thousands of those whose homes have been destroyed" to launch rebuilding.
The reconstruction of the devastated Gaza Strip was a key demand for Palestinians, as Israel previously limited the entry of even the most basic of building supplies by claiming they could used for military purposes as well.
The Israeli assault on Gaza over the last seven weeks left more than 100,000 homeless, in addition to the more than 2,140 killed and more than 11,200 injured.
The offensive also caused extensive damage to Gazan infrastructure, knocking out the Strip's sole power plant and targeting the tiny coastal enclave's limited water supplies.