Belying Western assertions that Hamas is a fringe movement unsupported by the vast majority of Palestinians, some 200,000 out of the 1.5 million people who live in the Gaza Strip turned out to celebrate the terror group's 21st anniversary on Sunday.
Addressing the throngs in Gaza City, Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said that Hamas had used its swelling popularity among average Palestinians to go much further than the rival Palestinian Authority ever had in establishing an independent Palestinian state.
Hamas-ruled Gaza today conducts its own foreign relations and has even built a well-trained and heavily-armed military force, according to Israeli intelligence.
Among the highlights of Sunday's event was a cruel portrayal of the abduction and imprisonment of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who has been held in Gaza since June of 2006.
Similar rallies were banned in Judea and Samaria (the so-called "West Bank"), where Mahmoud Abbas' Palestinian Authority still holds sway.
Palestinian sources quoted by The Jerusalem Post said that Abbas, whose term officially expires on January 9, intends to extend his rule to prevent Hamas from seizing the presidency as it did the legislature in the 2006 parliamentary election.
Polls currently show Abbas and Haniyeh running neck-and-neck for the PA presidency.