GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip – In a show of force, founders and political leaders of the terrorist group Hamas (search) appeared Saturday on a stage together for the first time in 10 years to tell the Palestinian people that the militant group's armed struggle will go on after Israel's impending withdrawal from the Gaza Strip (search).
In a direct challenge to the Palestinian Authority (search), the Hamas leadership positioned itself in front of the group's logo and a green Islamic flag to send a message that they have the right to possess weapons and to claim responsibility for pushing Israel out of the Gaza Strip.
The Hamas news conference comes just a day after the Palestinian Authority held its first official celebration — with the attendance of Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas — of Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and four West Bank settlements.
Speakers at the celebration made clear that all celebrations of the withdrawal would take place under the official Palestinian banner — the red, black, green and white flag — a message to Hamas which is planning military-style celebrations of its own.
Tensions between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas are heating up in the days just before Israel begins its withdrawal, with each trying to claim victory for Israel's evacuation of 25 settlements.