The leader of Hamas vowed to continue fighting Israel today, as hundreds of thousands of flag-waving Gazans turned out to celebrate the organization's 25th anniversary. Khaled Mashaal's visit to the Palestinian territory—a first in his lifetime of exile—underscores Hamas' rising clout and regional acceptance since its eight-day conflict with Israel last month. At the main stage in Gaza City, a roaring crowd greeted Mashaal and Gaza Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, who emerged from a door built into a large model of a rocket fired at Israeli cities during the recent fighting.
"We are not giving up any inch of Palestine," said Mashaal. "It will remain Islamic and Arab for us and nobody else. Jihad and armed resistance is the only way. We cannot recognize Israel's legitimacy." Hamas has received a boost from the political ascension of its parent movement, the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood, in the wake of last year's Arab Spring revolts—especially in Egypt. Israel, the US, and European Union list Hamas as a terrorist organization, though Israel is now holding indirect talks with the group as part of a cease-fire deal. (Read more Hamas stories.)