Tens of thousands of Hamas supporters rallied in Gaza City on Saturday to mark the 25th anniversary of the movement's establishment, with the presence of Hamas politburo chief Khaled Meshaal.
Despite the rain in the morning, Palestinians waving green and Palestinian flags and wearing headbands flocked in their dozens to al-Katiba square in western Gaza City, where the rally was held.
The crowds gathered before a huge stage, which showcased a 9-meter long mock-up rocket that Hamas said it manufactured and used in its last month fighting with Israel.
Meshaal, the movement's exiled leader, attended the rally and delivered a speech.
He crossed into Gaza on Friday from Egypt, which arranged his visit with Israel and got assurances that he will not be hit by Israel in his first-ever visit to Gaza.
Hamas leaders including Meshaal's deputy Musa Abu Marzooq and members of the movement's politburo were at the rally. Representatives and leaders of other factions, including Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah party, also attended.
Hamas said in an official statement that around half a million people attended the rally. According to it, around 2,500 foreign delegation members also participated in marking the anniversary.
In an official leaflet emailed to reporters, the movement said, "The rally of victory to mark the 25-year-anniversary for the movement is the largest and biggest turnout held in the Gaza Strip since the movement was founded on Dec. 14, 1987."
As'aad Abu Sharkh, a professor in the faculty of arts of al- Azhar University and a political analyst, said, "The huge crowds came to attend today the 25-year-anniversary of Hamas because Hamas achieved a victory in the last war on Gaza and forced Israel to accept the terms of the Palestinian resistance groups."
Israel launched a large-scale military operation on the Gaza Strip on Nov. 14, while Hamas and other militant groups fired hundreds of rockets at Israeli cities and towns, some of them reaching Tel Aviv. The conflict lasted for eight days and ended up with an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire between Hamas and Israel.
The Israeli attacks left more than 160 Palestinians dead, while the rockets fired by Gaza militants killed six Israelis. However, Hamas considered the ceasefire as a "victory."
A senior member of the Brigades of Izel Dein al-Qassam, the armed wing of Hamas, said at Saturday's rally that his brigades " will cut the hand of anybody that carries an aggression on the Palestinian people and their leaders."