Hamas celebrates 23rd anniversary with mass rally

GAZA CITY - Huge crowds of flag-waving Hamas supporters clogged the streets of Gaza City Tuesday and cars and buildings were adorned with the militant movement’s trademark green as tens of thousands turned out to mark the 23rd anniversary of the group’s founding.

By (AP)

Published: Tue 14 Dec 2010, 11:32 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 6:14 AM

The turnout appeared to be at least on par with previous years for an event billed by Gaza’s rulers as a referendum on their popularity. Hamas claimed it was a record crowd.

At the mass rally, Hamas leaders lauded the group’s history of fighting Israel and dismissed claims, including by some pollsters, that it has been losing ground since seizing Gaza by force more than three years ago.

“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.”

Hamas has often been torn between its roots as a militant group seeking to destroy Israel and a local government responsible for providing services to 1.5 million Gazans.

While sticking to its militant rhetoric, the Hamas has largely observed an informal truce since a bruising Israeli offensive two years ago, forgoing attacks that could spur Israel to strike back or tighten its blockade. Any Israel response could make life harder for Gazans. Some 30 percent of residents are unemployed and many more rely on food aid.

Hamas official Osama Muzini called the rally a referendum on Hamas’ popularity.

“All people who came to the streets came to say yes to Hamas and to its model of government and resistance,” he said.

The rally’s turnout is closely watched every year, and Hamas worked hard to ensure an impressive crowd.

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.

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