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Hamas Marks 25th Anniversary with Mass Rally in Gaza

  • Robert Berger

The exiled Hamas chief, Khaled Meshaal (L), and Gaza's Hamas prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, wave as they parade through the streets following Meshaal's arrival in Gaza City December 7, 2012.

The exiled Hamas chief, Khaled Meshaal (L), and Gaza's Hamas prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, wave as they parade through the streets following Meshaal's arrival in Gaza City December 7, 2012.

Tens of thousands of Palestinians gathered for a rally in Gaza to mark the 25th anniversary of the founding of Hamas. They sang nationalist songs, flashed the victory sign and waved green Hamas flags.

The rally celebrated what is seen as the Hamas "victory" in last month's conflict with Israel, despite 170 Palestinians killed and widespread destruction caused by Israeli air strikes. Israel says it launched the offensive to stop Palestinian rocket attacks.

Hamas fired hundreds of rockets across the Israeli border during the eight-day conflict, and in a show of defiance, an image of a giant missile stood on the stage at the Gaza rally.

The guest of honor was Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal, who entered Gaza on Friday after 45 years of exile. Meshaal said there could be no compromise with Israel.

"There will no concessions on one inch of land," Meshaal declared. He said all the land from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea belongs to the Palestinians, in other words, the entire State of Israel as well as the West Bank and Gaza.

Meshaal vowed that the armed struggle would continue until the liberation of all of "Palestine" and he said that Hamas will never recognize Israel.

Because of this position, Hamas is considered a terrorist organization by Israel and the West, which back the rival and more moderate Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. Hamas's stance also complicates international efforts to revive peace talks on the creation of a Palestinian state.

Israel is willing to negotiate with the Palestinian government in the West Bank, but Israeli officials say that if Hamas in Gaza continues to seek Israel's destruction, creation of a Palestinian state would be impossible.
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