Gazans gather for Hamas anniversary

After receiving a hero’s welcome on his return from decades in exile, Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal will attend a rally in Gaza on Saturday to mark the founding of his Islamist group and celebrate “victory” over Israel.

At least 200,000 Palestinians are expected to attend the outdoor event, which is likely to be used by Meshaal to promote Hamas’ growing stature in the Arab world and push the case for reconciliation with its secular political rival, Fatah.

Thousands of supporters, many holding aloft the green flag of the Islamist group, gathered on rain-sodden wasteland ahead of the rally. Patriotic music blasted from loudspeakers, including the recent hit ‘Strike a Blow at Tel Aviv’. The song refers to rockets Hamas fired at the Israeli city in last month's eight-day conflict, and a huge model of the Gaza-made M75 missile that took aim at both Tel Aviv and Jerusalem dominated the outdoor stage set up for the speeches.

“This is a day of victory,” said Ahmed Shaheen, 60, sitting with his young children in front of the massive platform. “The presence of Khaled Meshaal is a sign of this victory.”
Meshaal, 56, is on his first visit to the Gaza Strip and was moved to tears on Friday by the ecstatic reception he received from flag-waving crowds as he toured the tiny territory.

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