Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal, in an uncompromising speech during his first ever visit to Gaza after decades of exile, told a mass rally yesterday he would never recognise Israel and pledged to "free the land of Palestine, inch by inch".
A sea of flag-waving supporters filled wasteland in Gaza city to hear his fiery speech at an event marking the 25th anniversary of the founding of his Islamist group, which has ruled Gaza – a small splinter of coastal land – since 2007.
Meshaal was born in the nearby West Bank but spent all his adult life in exile before arriving in Gaza on Friday for a 48-hour visit.
" Palestine is ours from the river to the sea and from the south to the north. There will be no concession on an inch of the land," he told the crowds, saying he wanted the Palestinians to have all the territory that makes up modern-day Israel.
"We will never recognise the legitimacy of the Israeli occupation and therefore there is no legitimacy for Israel, no matter how long it will take," he said.
"Oh dear Meshaal, your army struck Tel Aviv," supporters chanted, referring to Hamas's firing of missiles for the first time at Israel's largest city.
Hamas said 500,000 attended the four-hour rally. There was no independent crowd estimate.