HaTens of thousands of Hamas supporters gathered at a central square in Gaza City to mark the 22nd anniversary of the Islamic resistance organization's establishment.
"Those that plotted Operation Cast Lead did not imagine that we would mark the anniversary of Hamas' establishment in such a large event," Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyyeh said at the rally.
"Those that planned the war, and executed it, when they bombed Gaza and killed thousands, did not imagine that such a day would come in the Gaza Strip."
He continued to say, "Hamas has not fallen despite the war, the Zionist enemy leaders are the ones that fell. Hamas has continued to grow and gain strength despite all the hardship it has suffered, all the arrests, the expulsions and the assassinations."
Haniyyeh said, "We've overcome the arrests of '96 by the Palestinian Authority, we've overcome the targeted killings, and prior to that we overcame the expulsion to Lebanon, which made us a central body in the region and the world and gave us the regional and depth we have."
Haniyyeh said that now, after four years of a siege, efforts to isolate Hamas have failed. "There has never in history been a siege like the one imposed on us in recent year. Hamas is steadfast despite all the hardship and the crises, and the masses here are simply a divine miracle."
He added, "We are not striving to form an Islamic emirate in the Strip. Our goal is to free Palestine â all of Palestine." He then reiterated his vow not to abandon the path of "resistance" and holy war.
"This movement liberated the Gaza Strip with the help of the resistance factions," said Haniyyeh, referring to the armed groups operating under the umbrella of Palestinian resistance. "Brothers and sisters, we will not be satisfied with Gaza," he declared. "Hamas looks toward the whole of Palestine."
Tens of thousands of supporters waved green flags and chanted pro-Hamas slogans. The rally's organizers had previously promised a surprise during the event.
Meanwhile, Hamas media outlets have reported that Palestinian Authority security forces in the West Bank have stepped up their arrest of Hamas operatives in order to stop them from celebrating the movement's establishment. Among those detained is the manager of the regional Hamas television station.
Israel Radio quoted Hamas sources as saying that captured Israeli occupation soldier Gilad Shalit would only see the light of day when Israel acquiesces to the Islamic resistance group's demands and releases the detainees that it has demanded.