GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Hamas mobilized tens of thousands of supporters on Monday for an anniversary rally meant to show the Islamic militant group has not lost support despite Israel’s devastating military assault on Gaza a year ago.
The crowd responded with chants of “We won’t recognize Israel” to a fiery speech by Hamas’ prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, who said the movement scored a “divine victory” against the Jewish state and will not lay down its arms.
Despite the defiant words, Hamas has sharply curtailed rocket fire on Israeli border towns since last winter’s Israeli offensive, which inflicted heavy losses on the militants.
And unlike at last year’s rally, Hamas did not taunt Israel over the captive Israeli soldier it is holding, Sgt. Gilad Schalit, whom the militants hope to trade for hundreds of Palestinians held by Israel. It appears Hamas didn’t want to spoil prospects of a German-mediated prisoner swap.
Hamas, founded in 1987 during the first Palestinian uprising against Israel, seized Gaza in 2007.