Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh greeted thousands of Palestinians in a central Gaza square on Wednesday in a massive victory rally following the signing of a long-term ceasefire that concluded 50 days of intense conflict with Israel.
The speech followed the release of polls earlier in the day showing widespread belief in Gaza that the Palestinian military resistance had increased its deterrence capacity and overwhelming support for the firing of rockets into Israel.
In his speech, Haniyeh hailed the people of Gaza and the resistance forces for their steadfastness in the fight against Israel, which claimed the lives of more than 2,100 Palestinians -- the overwhelming majority of whom were civilians -- and left 64 Israeli soldiers dead, in addition to six civilians in Israel.
"Those whose blood was spilled and the martyrs were the fuel of this victory," Haniyeh said during the rally, emphasizing to the crowd of thousands that the resistance had been preparing for the battle for years.
"It is not possible to express this victory with words and speeches," he added.
"The victory is beyond the limits of time and place. This battle is a war that lacks a precedent in the history of conflict with the enemy," he said, stressing that the group was preparing for the "ultimate battle" for the liberation of Palestine.
"The war began with fire on Haifa and ended with fire on Haifa," he told the crowd, highlighting the fact that Hamas had managed to fight throughout the seven-week Israeli assault and emerged with its military strength intact.
"The Palestinians who couldn't celebrate Eid al-Fitr because of the fighting and because they were on the battlefield, today celebrate the celebration of victory." more