CITY (AFP) - Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniya on Monday told tens of thousands of Hamas supporters his group remains committed to the elimination of Israel, on the 22nd anniversary of its founding.
We will never give up on Palestine from the river to the sea, Haniya told the crowd, referring to the pre-1948 borders of the British Palestine Mandate between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River.
It is not enough for Hamas to liberate Gaza, nor to establish an emirate in Gaza, nor a state, nor an independent entity... Hamas strives to liberate all of Palestine.
Supporters carried large green banners and portraits of Ahmed Yassin, the wheelchair-bound cleric who founded and led the group until he was killed in an Israeli air strike in 2004.
In the 22 years since its founding, Hamas has been able to realise a large part of its goals and to overcome every obstacle it has faced, from prison, exile, assassinations and elections, senior Hamas leader Mahmud Zahar said.
Our understanding of the resistance is total, and is not limited to armed conflict, he added in an interview with a news website close to the smaller and more radical Jihad faction.
Abu Obeida, a spokesman for Hamass armed wing the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, which was responsible for scores of deadly attacks and suicide bombings in Israel, praised the groups military evolution.
We have been able to build an army for resistance and to haunt the Zionist enemy, he said in a statement on a Qassam-linked website.
(The Qassam Brigades) has manufactured its weapons with its bare hands... including the Qassam rocket, which terrifies the Zionist enemy, he added, referring to the makeshift and rarely lethal rockets the group fired at Israel before declaring a ceasefire after last winters Gaza war.
Hamas also used the anniversary to issue a rare public statement about German-mediated talks over a prisoner exchange for an Israeli soldier held in Gaza for more than three years, saying he would not freed without a deal.
The Zionist soldier will not see the light of day unless the occupation responds to the demands of the resistance and frees our courageous prisoners, it said, referring to the 23-year-old soldier Gilad Shalit.
In recent weeks Israel and Hamas have appeared to be edging closer to an agreement to free Shalit-who was captured by Hamas and two smaller groups in a deadly cross-border raid in 2006 in exchange for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails.
Both sides have imposed strict internal censorship on discussion of the talks, which are believed to involve senior Palestinian leaders and prisoners convicted of carrying out scores of deadly attacks on Israelis.
Founded in 1987 shortly after the beginning of the first intifada, or uprising, against Israels occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Hamas was inspired by Egypts Muslim Brotherhood.
The group remains pledged to the eventual destruction of Israel and the establishment of an Islamic state on the pre-1948 borders of the British Palestine Mandate.
Hamas won a landslide victory in Palestinian elections in 2006, routing the long-dominant secular Fatah party led by the Western-backed president Mahmud Abbas, and took over Gaza in June 2007 after months of factional unrest.
It has since tightened its grip on the territory despite harsh Israeli sanctions imposed after the takeover and the devastating Gaza war at the turn of the year, in which some 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed.