Armed Fighters March in Gaza

Hamas' display of strength contrasts with weakened Palestinian Authority
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 22, 2021 2:30 PM CDT

(Newser) – Hundreds of masked Hamas fighters brandishing assault rifles paraded in Gaza City on Saturday in a defiant show of strength after the militants' 11-day war with Israel. Wearing military camouflage, the fighters walked past the mourning tent for Bassem Issa, a senior commander killed in the fighting. The top Hamas leader in Gaza, Yehiyeh Sinwar, paid his respects in his first public appearance since the war began. Israel bombed the house of Sinwar, along with that of other senior Hamas figures, as part of its attack on what it said was the group's military infrastructure. Israel's defense minister, Benny Gantz, has said that Israel delivered a punishing blow to Hamas, and that top Hamas figures remained targets. Saturday marked the first full day of a cease-fire, and Egyptian mediators held talks to firm up the truce. In the fighting, Israel unleashed hundreds of airstrikes against militant targets in Gaza, while Hamas and other militants fired more than 4,000 rockets toward Israel. More than 250 people were killed, the AP reports, the vast majority of them Palestinians.

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Both Israel and Hamas have claimed victory. The war has further sidelined Hamas' main political rival, the internationally backed Palestinian Authority, which oversees autonomous enclaves in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Hamas' popularity seemed to be growing as it positioned itself as a defender of Palestinian claims to Jerusalem. On Friday, hours after the cease-fire took effect, thousands of Palestinians in the Al-Aqsa compound chanted against Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and his self-rule government. "Dogs of the Palestinian Authority, out, out," they shouted. It was an unprecedented display of anger against Abbas. The conflict also brought to the surface deep frustration among Palestinians—whether in the occupied West Bank, Gaza or within Israel—over the status quo, with the Israeli-Palestinian peace process all but abandoned for years. Despite his weakened status, Abbas will be the point of contact for any US diplomacy, since Israel and the West, including the US, consider Hamas a terrorist organization. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is to meet with Abbas and Israeli leaders when he visits in the coming week.

(Read more Gaza Strip stories.)

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