Hamas pledges to 'redouble efforts' to rearm amid shaky Gaza peace

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 31 August, 2014, 6:02am
UPDATED : Sunday, 31 August, 2014, 6:02am


Thousands of militants paraded in the besieged Gaza Strip last week, defiantly saying they would rearm as the prospects of a final deal on a long-term Israel-Hamas truce looked shaky.

Calm returned to the coastal enclave in a Tuesday ceasefire, and Gazans were gradually starting to rebuild their lives after a bloody and destructive 50-day war, the deadliest for years.

However, the chances of long-term peace hung in the balance after Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal ruled out Israeli demands to disarm, and as Israel said it would not budge on Hamas demands.

On Friday, thousands of Hamas fighters paraded through Gaza City in a show of force, marching with light weapons and holding aloft rockets similar to those fired at Israel during the conflict.

The spokesman for Al-Quds Brigades, the group's armed wing, delivered a speech praising backer Iran and ally Hezbollah and declaring the group would "redouble efforts" to rearm.

"We have not stopped making weapons, even during the battle, and we will redouble our efforts ... to prepare for the next stage, which we hope will be the battle for freedom," said the spokesman known as Abu Hamza.

His words echoed those of the exiled leader of Hamas, Gaza's de facto ruler.But the brutal war has left the future of the Palestinian unity government at risk after President Mahmoud Abbas blamed Hamas on Friday for extending fighting with Israel.

"It was possible for us to avoid all of that, 2,000 martyrs, 10,000 injured, 50,000 houses [damaged or destroyed]," Abbas told Palestine TV. He said Hamas had insisted on discussing demands before ending the war, which served to prolong the violence needlessly.

Abbas, whose Palestinian Authority formed a unity government backed by Hamas earlier this year, questioned the future of the truce arrangement.

The unity government was meant to put an end to the animosity between the two Palestinian groups from when Hamas overran Gaza in 2007, ousting forces from the Fatah party, led by the Western-backed secular Abbas, in bloody street battles.

Additional reporting by Associated Press