Hamas on Wednesday marked its 24th anniversary by playing up how many Jews it has managed to murder. The highly publicized event (and grisly casualty figures) came just months before Palestinians are scheduled to go to the polls to elect a new parliament and president.
In an official statement Hamas' military wing, the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, boasted of killing 1,365 Israelis and wounding another 6,411 in 1,117 terror attacks over the past two decades. The group also noted that it had fired over 11,000 rockets and missiles from Gaza into southern Israel.
Hours later, tens of thousands of Palestinians gathered in Gaza City to celebrate Hamas' founding and its successes against the hated Jews of Israel. Speakers at the event reiterated Hamas' dedication to eliminating Israel, and decried ongoing Middle East peace negotiations as a failed experiment.
Many in Israel saw the public event as the start of Hamas' campaign for the next legislative and presidential election, which Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas recently announced would take place in May 2012.
Hamas leaders expect to score another landslide victory when next the Palestinians go to the polls. The 2006 Palestinian election produced a surprise Hamas takeover of the Palestinian parliament, a result that left clueless Western diplomats baffled.
If recent electoral results in Egypt are any indication, the general sentiment on the street has only drifted closer to the Islamist viewpoint in the intervening years.