The senior Hamas leader in Gaza said on Friday that his movement is strong enough to liberate the Palestinian prisoners being held in Israeli jails, MEMO's correspondent in Gaza has reported.
"The liberation of the Palestinian prisoners is a pledge by all parties of the Palestinian resistance," insisted Ismail Haniyeh, "and any concession in this regard touches on our national principles." The Hamas official used the Friday sermon at prayers held in front of the Gaza HQ of the International Committee of the Red Cross to deliver his message. "Hamas will never feel happy until all of the Palestinian prisoners are freed in the same way as those granted freedom in the 2011 prisoner swap," he added.
Haniyeh stressed that the prisoners' issue is not one for Gaza alone, but also for the West Bank. "Indeed, it is for all of historic Palestine and the whole Ummah because the prisoners are held in Israeli prisons for defending the dignity of the whole Ummah."
Addressing hundreds of worshippers in the outdoor congregation, he pointed out that the movement does not deal with the prisoners as a "secondary" issue. It is, he said, one of the core issues on the agenda for Hamas, and on the table 24/7.
"The whole Ummah felt happy at the 2011 prisoner swap," he explained, "but we will not be happy unless and until all of the prisoners are liberated." Haniyeh revealed that Hamas has the same negotiating strength that it had during the talks which led to the last deal.
Furthermore, he hailed all of the legal, popular and political activities organised in solidarity with the Palestinian prisoners in both Palestine and abroad "organised by Palestinians or pro-Palestine activists."
Regarding the intifada in the West Bank and Jerusalem, he said that it would continue despite the "conspiracies" trying to suppress it, "because it is the choice of the people of this generation."