Hamas rally in Gaza takes aim at Egypt, Israel and Abbas

Palestinian Hamas supporters take part in a Hamas rally marking the anniversary of the death of its leaders killed by Israel, in Gaza City March 23, 2014.

Tens of thousands of Palestinians rallied in Gaza on Sunday to show support for their Islamist Hamas government, which has long been at loggerheads with Israel but is now shunned by Egypt as well.

The military-backed government that toppled the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas’s ideological kin, in Cairo last year has blacklisted the Brotherhood and Hamas as terrorist groups and clamped down on people, goods and arms crossing the Sinai-Gaza border.

Hamas tried in vain to mollify Egypt by insisting that its hostility was directed exclusively at Israel, but is now turning up the rhetoric.

“The punishment of the people of Gaza must end,” Ismail Haniyeh, head of the Hamas government, told the rally in a speech interspersed with chants of “Jihad is not Terrorism” over the loudspeakers.

“Why punish Gaza? Was it because it achieved victory against the Occupier? Why punish Gaza? Was it because it took up the rifle against Israel?” Haniyeh said.

“We are living through a difficult stage and harsh challenges, but we are not terrified and we are not defeated. We have become familiar with difficulties and this stage is not the most difficult.”

Hamas has repeatedly fought Israel, which withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005. The Islamists won a Palestinian legislative election the next year and, after a uneasy power-share with the U.S.-backed rival faction Fatah, seized control of Gaza in 2007…

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