Hamas rulers, triumphant at having survived Israel's military operation in Gaza, held victory rallies Tuesday amid the ruins left in the wake of the IDF's campaign in the Strip.
Thousands of Hamas supporters thronged a square outside the remains of the parliament building in Gaza City, which was heavily damaged in an Israeli airstrike at the outset of the war. Two men hoisted a sign in carefully scripted Hebrew reading, "The resistance will be victorious, Israel has been defeated."
Although Israel scored a decisive battleground victory, Hamas claims its own victory because it managed to withstand the intense Israeli assault and fired hundreds of rockets into the Jewish state throughout the fighting.
Hamas won? (Photo: AFP)
In a sign the Hamas remained in control in Gaza, the group's uniformed security teams patrolled Gaza City.
"With full trust and full confidence I say the Palestinian people and the heroic resistance have won this battle," Hamas' Mushir al-Masri said Monday. "Hamas today is stronger than any time before. ... The loser is the occupation."
'We can't talk about real victory'
Thousands of Hamas supporters also turned out to celebrate in the southern Gaza town of Khan Younis, raising their forefingers in the air as a sign of their loyalty to the group, and waving the movement's iconic green flag. Bearded organizers in yellow vests kept the crowd in order and pro-Hamas music blared from loudspeakers.
Meanwhile, around 800 people showed up for a pro-Hamas demonstration in the northern Gaza town of Beit Lahiya, the site of heavy fighting.
"For us, this was a victory," said Mohammed Abu Awad, 24, a university student.
But the owner of a coffee stand located near the Gaza City rally criticized the festivities, given the steep Palestinian death toll.
"We can't talk about real victory because there were thousands of martyrs and we didn't liberate anything," said Jawdat Abu Nahel. "It's no time for a parade."
Elsewhere, thousands attended a Tehran rally celebrating "the resistance's victory in Gaza," the Iranian news agency Fars reported Tuesday.
The rally was headed by Hamas and Islamic Jihad officials in Iran, and ended with a march towards the former American embassy compound in the city.