Hamas supporters in the West Bank cities of Hebron and Ramallah gathered on Friday for rallies to celebrate the militant group's 25th anniversary of its founding.
Hundreds of Palestinians took the streets in both West Bank cities, waving the green flags of the Islamist Hamas group. The rare gathering of Hamas supporters, the first rallies allowed by the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank for five years, showed the growing confidence of the Gaza-based militant group.
“We are here today to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Islamic movement, Hamas. We are here to assure that the resistance is the only way for independence,” said one supporter from Hebron.
Hamas forces seized control of Gaza in 2007 and ousted those loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, a year after it swept parliamentary elections ending decades of Fatah dominance. The open rift split the Palestinian national movement politically and geographically, between Fatah in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza.
The two groups are hoping to boost ties on the heels of an eight-day war with Israel last month, which cheered Hamas, and a Fatah-led initiative at the United Nations General Assembly, that recognized a de facto Palestinian state.
“I congratulate our brothers (in the West Bank) in the Islamic movement Hamas for the anniversary of the movement and the mass gathering that happened yesterday in Nablus and today in Hebron and will happen tomorrow in Ramallah, these massive Palestinian gatherings assure that the national atmosphere inside is moving forward,” said Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh after Friday prayers in Gaza.