Speaking during visit to South Africa, Hamas leader says the “Jerusalem intifada” will continue until “Palestinians achieve freedom and the land returns to Palestine and its people.”
Hamas political leader Khaled Mashaal was quoted on Thursday as saying that it is the responsibility of all Palestinians to “liberate al-Aksa Mosque and Palestine.”
Mashaal, who is currently on a visit to South Africa, also told an ANC-sponsored rally in Cape Town that the “Jerusalem intifada” would continue “until Palestinians achieve freedom and the land returns to Palestine and its people.”
During the speech on Wednesday, he said that Hamas is “opposed to ideological extremism.” Hamas, he claimed, had chosen the path of “moderation” and is not hostile towards anyone because of his beliefs.
Interrupted by cheers of “Takbir” from hundreds of Muslims in the crowd, he denied claims that Hamas is “a terrorist organization,” saying that it is a political movement struggling for justice, Palestinian freedom, and independence.
“Hamas believes in a struggle against the oppressors,” he said.
Mashaal claimed that Israel is seeking to “divide in time and space” al-Aksa Mosque so as to allow Jews to pray at the site. He also claimed that Israel’s actions are designed to “change the history and identity of Jerusalem by turning it into a Jewish city.”
Mashaal also drew parallels between Israel’s actions, including the construction of the security barrier in the West Bank, and the former apartheid regime in South Africa.
“You in South Africa have achieved your freedom and the Palestinians are also aspiring to achieve their freedom,” Mashaal said. “Don’t expect them to stop their uprising; don’t expect them to stop the resistance.”
A guest of the ANC, Mashaal has met in Pretoria and Cape Town with President Jacob Zuman and senior officials, the party’s youth branch and representatives of NGOs that support Hamas.
In Jerusalem, the Foreign Ministry summoned the South African ambassador to voice Israel’s “shock and outrage” at South Africa’s hosting of Mashaal.
News agencies contributed to this report.