Tens of thousands of Hamas supporters flocked to Gaza City Tuesday for a mass rally to boost support for the Palestinian group on its 23rd anniversary.
Large pictures of Hamas leaders, including the group's Israel- assassinated spiritual guide Ahmed Yassin, were displayed under a banner reading "I remain committed to the cause."
Streets, cars and buildings were adorned with Hamas' trademark green, and huge crowds of flag-waving supporters clogged the streets to reach the rally where Hamas leaders lauded the group's history of fighting Israel.
(The Gaza rally marks the 23rd anniversary of the founding of the Hamas movement.)
"Hamas has not failed, Hamas has not collapsed," Prime Minster Ismail Haniyeh told the crowd. "Hamas did not fail to bring together government and resistance."
From the early morning, mosque loudspeakers blared calls to attend, and hundreds of buses and vans shuttled supporters from all over Gaza to a huge, sandy lot in Gaza City awash in green, Hamas' trademark color for its association with Islam.
A 100-yard (meter) long stage recalled the walls of Jerusalem's Old City, and the rally's speakers stood in front of a 3D model of Jerusalem's gold-capped Dome of the Rock.
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, whose group runs the Gaza Strip, said the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) headed by President Mahmoud Abbas had made a "historic mistake" by recognising Israel.
"Hamas will not recognize Israel," Haniyeh said, as long as it continues to occupy Palestinian lands. "Israel is an enemy and there is no future for occupation," he said, naming in areas in Palestinian and Syrian towns in Gaza and the Golan Heights, "from the lake to the river to the sea."
The party leader said continued talks with Israel by the Palestinian Authority were useless, and urged Fatah to abandon the attempt, which he said was standing in the way of Palestinian unity.