The gathering at the Husain ibn Ali Stadium in downtown Hebron was seen by some Palestinian observers as evidence of the movement's popularity and strength vis-a-vis Fatah, the Palestinian Authority's (PA) ruling party.
 
Khalid Mishal, the overseas-based chief of Hamas' politburo, who spoke to the rally by telephone via a loudspeaker, said Hamas and the rest of the Palestinian people would never succumb to Israel's "sinister attempts to impose capitulation on our people".
 
Hamas, he said, "will never abandon the path of resistance until the Palestinian people earn its freedom and independence".
 
Message to PA

Earlier, a local Islamic leader urged the PA to hold planned municipal and legislative polls on time.
 
The PA has designated 25 July for holding elections choose members of the Palestinian parliament.
 

Israeli and US flags were draped
around a mock coffin and burned

"We urge you to join the 'green brigade,' and not be among the reluctant," Azzam Salhab, a university professor, said.

Azzam had just ended four years of administrative detention in an Israeli jail for opposing the occupation.
 
Salhab cautioned that the relative calm currently prevailing in the occupied territories would not last long if Israel continued to hold thousands of Palestinian prisoners, many without charge or trial.
 
He dismissed the current peace efforts as futile and suggested that Hamas was working on a strategy premised on a prolonged struggle against "Jewish hegemony".
 
Israel warned

"We must strive to achieve Arab and Islamic unity. You know well that these despotic leaders in the Arab world don't represent the masses and they will have to go sooner or later," Salhab said.

"Hamas will never abandon the path of resistance until the Palestinian people earn its freedom and independence"

Khalid Mishal,
Hamas politburo chief


He also warned the Israeli government and messianic Jewish settlers against "tampering with al-Aqsa Mosque".
 
"We warn these criminal settlers against playing with fire. Hamas will not stand idle if the mosque is attacked or targeted," Salhab said.