Hamas stages military rally to mark anniversary

December 14, 2014

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — The Islamic militant group Hamas displayed rockets and other heavy weapons Sunday during a rally marking the 27th anniversary of its founding.

It also launched a drone that prompted Israel to scramble fighter jets in a precautionary measure, the Israeli military said. Several thousand people attended the show of force in Gaza City, a lower turnout than in previous Hamas anniversary rallies.

The group’s leaders watched from a stage, including former Gaza Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, who brandished an assault rifle and flashed a V-for-victory sign. Sunday’s march came three-and-a-half months after the end of a 50-day war between Israel and Hamas. It was the third and bloodiest round of fighting between the two since late 2008, with some 2,200 people killed on the Palestinian side and 72 on the Israeli side.

Despite claims of victory by both Israel and Hamas, the fighting failed to resolve underlying conflicts that contributed to the summer war. Israel says it launched the operation in response to nonstop Hamas rocket fire. Hamas said it was fighting to lift an Israeli-Egyptian border blockade first imposed on Gaza after the Islamic militant group violently seized the territory from forces loyal to the Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in 2007.

With Sunday’s weapons display, Hamas appeared to be sending a message to both Israel and the residents of Gaza that another round of fighting is an option. Hamas also released a video with brief narration purported to be from Mohammed Deif, the shadowy leader of the group’s military wing and the target of repeated Israeli assassination attempts.

Israel tried to kill Deif in an August airstrike on a Gaza City home that killed one of his wives and two of the couple’s young children. Deif’s fate has remained unclear, though Hamas said at the time that he had survived.

The man in the recording identified as Deif said, “We will return to them (Israelis) with fighters that they cannot fight and will drive them out … God willing.”

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