Hamas marks one year since Israel's Gaza offensive

Arab-Israel Relations Materials 28 December 2009 00:46 (UTC +04:00)

Under the slogan "victory and steadfastness," Gaza's ruling Hamas movement organized a series of activities Sunday, including rallies and ceremonies, to mark one year since Israel's three-week military offensive against militants in the salient, dpa reported.

The commemorations kicked off with a one-minute siren, which wailed across the Gaza Strip while people froze in silent attention, and mosques in the enclave, controlled by Hamas, broadcast verses from the Koran.

Ahmed Bahar, deputy speaker of the Hamas-dominated parliament, unveiled a memorial to the Palestinians killed in the fighting - some 1,400, according to Gaza human rights groups.

He said Israel had failed to achieve its goals in the offensive, which he said was meant to topple Hamas' rule in the Gaza Strip, end the rocket fire on southern Israel from the Strip, and free Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier snatched during a June 25, 2006 cross- border raid and held in Gaza ever since.

"All the attempts to strike and end the resistance will fail," he said, and described the underground steel wall Egypt is constructing along its border with the Strip, to prevent smuggling,as "the last arrow in the international regime's quiver to wear out Gaza."

In Gaza City, hundreds of children aged between 6 and 12 years old marched through the main street of the city and headed towards the square of the Unknown Soldier in the city centre.

Israel said it launched the offensive with airstrikes, and expanded it to include sending ground forces into the Strip, to end over seven years of incessant rock fire on its towns and villages adjacent to the salient.

The missile fire from the enclave has decreased dramatically since the offensive ended on January 18, but according to Israeli intelligence Hamas has test-fired at least two advanced, long-range missiles capable of hitting Israeli population centres previously out of range of the projectiles in the militants' arsenals.