“‘From here, from this place, our nation and our masses are walking toward the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital,’ Abbas said.” From AP, with thanks to Sr. Soph:
Tens of thousands of Palestinians crowded into Gaza City’s small fishing harbor Friday to celebrate the impending Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, waving flags and hearing promises from their leader, Mahmoud Abbas, that the West Bank and Jerusalem will be next.
Meanwhile, in Gaza early Friday, about 1,000 armed and masked Hamas combatants staged a training exercise in which they practiced infiltrating and attacking Jewish settlements.
For the first time Hamas invited TV cameramen to film about 1,000 gunmen training ahead of the pullout. It wasn’t clear whether this signaled an intent by the terrorist group to attack settlements during the impending pullout.
The release of the pictures of Hamas members rapelling from high-rise walls and jumping through hoops of fire was also seen as a challenge to the Palestinian Authority.
Under the theme “Setting Sail for Freedom,” the rally to celebrate Israel’s withdrawal was the PA’s first mass celebration of Israeli withdrawal. Organized by the government, it appeared to be part of an attempt by Abbas to seek credit for the pullout and defuse Hamas’s claims that its attacks drove Israel out.
The celebrators chanted anti-Israel slogans, burned Israeli flags and fired off rounds of ammunition into the air.
Surrounded by security guards, Abbas spoke briefly to the crowd: “From here, from this place, our nation and our masses are walking toward the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital,” Abbas said.