Liberation of West Bank, Jerusalem Next on Palestinian Agenda

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:16 PM EDT

Gaza Strip ( - Palestinians celebrating Israel's departure from the Gaza Strip this week, said that the Israeli withdrawal is only the beginning of their struggle, which will continue until they have "liberated" the West Bank and Jerusalem.

Following the removal of the 8,000 Jewish residents of 21 communities in the Gaza Strip and the demolition of their homes in August, the last Israeli forces left the Gaza Strip early Monday morning and locked the gates ending a 38-year presence there and creating a new frontier.

The official Palestinian Authority celebration has not yet been held, but on Tuesday evening militant factions are holding victory marches through the former Israeli settlements, reports said.

Convoys of masked men flying flags of the various factions road through the settlements, declaring their part in what they claim is the uprising's victory in driving Israel out of the Gaza Strip on Monday.

About 20 vehicles, blaring militant music, in one such group flew the black flag of Islamic Jihad as they drove on the road to the former northern Gaza Strip settlement of Elei Sinai.

"We are celebrating the liberation of Gaza, and we will continue to liberate the West Bank and Jerusalem," said Mohammed Batshi, who was masked, armed and sitting on the door hanging out of the window of one of the vehicles.

"We say to our brother in the West Bank that we are coming and we will help them," said Batshi, indicating that his group would continue its "liberation" of Palestine even after the West Bank was in Palestinian hands.

Palestinian National Council Member Saleh Nasser, who is a central committee member of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) said that the way the struggle continues would be up to Israel.

"We are enjoying this day [being] liberated and this gives us [hope] to continue our struggle to liberate our homeland ... to liberate the West Bank and Gaza and Jerusalem... and build our state," said Nasser standing on a sand dune not far from the Gaza Strip settlement of Netzarim.

Gaza, he said, would not be fully free from Israel until the Palestinians had full control over the air, sea and land passages.

The kind of struggle the Palestinians would wage will depend on how Israel behaves, said Nasser. Violence and negotiations would probably go hand in hand, he said.

"We have to develop the mass movement, the mass struggle, [the] peace struggle," Nasser said about the need to build and develop the social and democratic spheres in Gaza.

"At the same time since we are in a liberation movement, the West Bank is still occupied. We will think [about] the other means," Nasser added.

Nabil Hariri, 27, works for the P.A. security forces and was also part of the PLO's Al-Aksa Martyrs' Brigades' part of "the militia" during the intifadah of the last five years.

The factions to which Israel and Washington referred during the last five years as terrorist organizations are known to Palestinians as the militia.

"We believe that our struggle with Israel is not finished. We still have the prisoner issue. We have to help our brothers on the West Bank. From the Islamic perspective Palestine is not only Gush Katif and Neve Dekalim [a settlement]," Hariri said. "It's not the location, it's an ideology."

According to Hariri, attacks against Israel should continue, but when asked if that included "suicide attacks," he objected to the terminology.

"These operations are very respected things," said Hariri. "We are dying to live." Palestinian children, he said, would never forgive Israel for what they have done.

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