Hamas leader gets huge welcome in Cape Town

Cape Town - Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal received a massive welcome as he walked on to the stage at a rally being held for him and his delegation in Cape Town on Tuesday.

People rushed to the aisle, protected by bodyguards, to try and touch him as he bounded up the steps of the Darul Islamic Campus in Greenhaven east of Cape Town.

He smiled through a salt and pepper beard and waved back at people in the the packed hall.

With him were State Security Minister David Mahlobo and former minister of social services, Zola Skweyiya, as well as Western Cape ANC chairperson, Marius Fransman.

The assembly, which included babies in prams, waved their ANC flags and black, red, white and green Palestinian banners.

Security was extremely tight with two guards standing behind Meshaal, wearing an open necked white shirt and dark suit, and his delegation and another three in front, with more standing discreetly off-stage.

Moulana Igshaan Hendricks, President of the Muslim Judicial Council, said Hamas' visit to South Africa was a decisive moment for South Africa and Israel.

''We stand here today and we say we do not recognise Israel,'' said Hendricks.

One of the organisers, Braam Hanekom, said there would not be many countries in the world who would have hosted Hamas.

Fransman said he was pleased that the Hamas leadership did not just fly in for a meeting with the ANC at Luthuli House in Johannesburg, and that they visited Cape Town.

One of the key pillars in the struggle against apartheid was international solidarity, and the push for international solidarity should continue, he said.

But not everybody was excited about Hamas' visit. A small protest in defence of Israel took up outside Parliament on Wednesday to show opposition to the Hamas visit.

The issue of the City of Cape Town twinning with Haifa in Israel was raised. Johannesburg is twinned with Ramallah.

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