GAZA Dec 8 Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal, making
his first ever visit to the Gaza Strip, vowed on Saturday never
to recognise Israel and said his Islamist group would never
abandon its claim to all Israeli territory.
"Palestine is ours from the river to the sea and from the
south to the north. There will be no concession on an inch of
the land," he told a sea of supporters at an open-air rally, the
highlight of his three-day stay in Gaza.
"We will never recognise the legitimacy of the Israeli
occupation and therefore there is no legitimacy for Israel, no
matter how long it will take."
In an uncompromising speech, Meshaal also vowed to free
Palestinian prisoners held in Israel, indicating Islamist
militants would try to kidnap Israeli soldiers to use as a
Israel last year released 1,027 Palestinians from its jails
in return for the liberation of Gilad Shalit, a conscript
soldier who was seized by Palestinian guerrillas in 2006 and
hidden for more than five years in Gaza.
Thousands of Palestinian detainees remain in Israel. The
Jewish state says many of them are terrorists. Hamas calls them
"We will not rest until we liberate the prisoners. The way
we freed some of the prisoners in the past is the way we will
use to free the remaining prisoners," Meshaal said to cheers
from the huge crowd that had flocked to see him.
Meshaal was born in the nearby West Bank but has lived most
of his life in exile. He entered Gaza 24 hours ago to attend
Saturday's rally which marks the 25th anniversary of the
founding of Hamas.