In a long, defiant speech on Monday afternoon, Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said that gaining control of the Gaza Strip was "just a step toward liberating all of Palestine."
"This movement liberated the Gaza Strip with the help of the militant factions," said Haniyeh, referring to terrorist groups operating under the umbrella of Palestinian resistance.
"Brothers and sisters, we will not be satisfied with Gaza," he declared. "Hamas looks toward the whole of Palestine."
Israel Radio quoted Hamas sources as saying that captured IDF soldier St.-Sgt. Gilad Schalit would only see the light of day when Israel acquiesces to the terrorist group's demands and frees the prisoners whose release it has demanded.
Tens of thousands of Hamas supporters thronged downtown Gaza City Monday to mark the 22nd anniversary of the group's founding. Gaza was decked out in Islamic green, with Hamas flags fluttering from rooftops, lampposts and cars. Some parents dressed small children in combat fatigues and green Hamas headbands.
The crowd packed an outdoor square where a huge banner draped over the wall of a building showed a picture of Jerusalem's main Islamic shrine and photos of senior Hamas figures.
Leaders made impassioned speeches, bands played and scout troops marched in processions.
"Gaza is free. Gaza is steadfast," shouted an all-male singing troupe, whose members wore military camouflage. Haniyeh exuberantly waved Palestinian and Hamas flags to the crowd as he took the stage.
The group called on the Palestinians to expect "surprises" during the rally, sparking speculation that its leaders may exploit the event to announce a prisoner exchange agreement with Israel.
Hamas' radio and TV stations exhorted Gazans to attend the mass rally after Muslim midday prayers.