Gaza Marks Hamas Anniversary With Huge Rally

Gaza Marks Hamas Anniversary With Huge Rally

Tens of thousands of Palestinians are gathering in Gaza City for a rally marking the 25th anniversary of the militant group Hamas.

Leader Khaled Meshaal is due to address the crowd, a day after receiving a hero's welcome in his first ever trip to Gaza, which ended decades of exile.

Thousands of Hamas supporters, some of them flashing victory signs, others waving the movement's green flags, attended the Al-Qatiba complex, west of Gaza City.

Security was tight, with streets cordoned off and masked members of the group’s military wing keeping watch from rooftops in the area.

At least 200,000 Palestinians are expected to attend.

The rally is likely to be used to proclaim victory in the recent eight-day conflict with Israel, which killed some 170 Palestinians and six Israelis and ended in an Egypt-brokered ceasefire.

Hamas has portrayed itself as the victor because Israel agreed to the truce instead of sending in ground troops, as it initially threatened.

At the rally, Mr Meshaal is also expected to promote Hamas's growing stature in the Arab world and push the case for reconciliation with its secular political rival, Fatah.

Local leaders of Fatah, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's faction, are expected to participate.

Hamas has governed Gaza since 2007.

Mr Meshaal crossed the border from Egypt on Friday, kissing the ground as he got out of the car.

A veteran Hamas strategist, Mahmoud Al-Zahar, said: "All Palestinians will eventually return to their homeland. Khaled Meshaal is returning after a victory."

Founded in 1987 shortly after the start of the first Palestinian intifada, or uprising, Hamas was inspired by Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood.

Hamas is on the UK Home Office's list of proscribed groups, while the United States classifies it as a terrorist organisation.


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