Hamas rallies in celebration of 25 year anniversary; vows not to recognize Israel (PHOTOS)

Palestinians pray as others watch on during a rally to mark the 25th anniversary of Hamas in Gaza City on December 8, 2012.
Credit: Marco Longari

Hamas turned 25 on Saturday, as thousands of Palestinians rallied in Gaza to celebrate the militant group's anniversary and leader Khaled Meshaal vowed never to recognize Israel. 

In his first-ever visit to the Gaza strip, Meshaal stood firm as he addressed his supporters, Reuters reported

"Palestine is ours from the river to the sea and from the south to the north. There will be no concession on an inch of the land," he said in a speech at the open-air rally. "We will never recognize the legitimacy of the Israeli occupation and therefore there is no legitimacy for Israel, no matter how long it will take."

Meshaal was born in the West Bank, but has lived most of his life in exile, and was "moved to tears" by his reception on Friday, the start of his three-day visit to the region, according to Reuters. 

He is also expected to unveil a strategy for the future of Hamas and speak of reconciliation with rival group Fatah, which governs sections of the West Bank, later Saturday, BBC News reported

The centerpiece of the celebrations was a giant model of the Gaza-made M75 missile that was fired at both Tel Aviv and Jerusalem during the eight-day conflict last month. The violence left 160 Palestinians and six Israelis dead, Bloomberg Businessweek reported

Hamas has painted itself as the winners of the battle, because Israel agreed to a ceasefire brokered by Egypt instead of launching their ground invasion, the Associated Press reported

At least 200,000 people attended Saturday's rally, though Hamas said there were 500,000, including 2,500 members of Islamic delegations from Indonesia, Mauritania, Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia, Turkey, Libya and Jordan — the biggest turnout for an event since their founding, according to Bloomberg. 

“Huge crowds came to attend today because Hamas achieved a victory in the last war on the Gaza Strip and forced Israel to accept the terms of the Palestinian resistance groups,” As’aad Abu Sharkh, a political analyst at Gaza’s al-Azhar University, told Bloomberg. “By this victory Hamas shows its way is successful, the way of armed resistance and not negotiations, which can never bring any victory.”

More from GlobalPost: How Israel actually helps Hamas

Related Stories