Palestinian Hamas masked gunmen perform their military skills during a rally to commemorate the 27th anniversary of the Hamas militant group, in Gaza City, Sunday, Dec. 14, 2014
GAZA CITY, GAZA STRIP (ASSOCIATED PRESS) — The Islamic militant group Hamas displayed rockets and other heavy weapons Sunday during a rally marking the 27th anniversary of its founding.
Several thousand people attended the show of force in Gaza City, a lower turnout than in previous Hamas anniversary rallies. The group's leaders watched from a stage, including former Gaza Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, who brandished an assault rifle and flashed a V-for-victory sign.
Sunday's march came three-and-a-half months after the end of a 50-day war between Israel and Hamas. It was the third and bloodiest round of fighting between the two since late 2008, with some 2,200 people killed on the Palestinian side and 72 on the Israeli side.
Despite claims of victory by both Israel and Hamas, the fighting failed to resolve underlying conflicts that contributed to the summer war. Israel says it launched the operation in response to nonstop Hamas rocket fire. Hamas said it was fighting to lift an Israeli-Egyptian border blockade first imposed on Gaza after Hamas violently seized the territory from forces loyal to the Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in 2007.
With Sunday's weapons display, Hamas appeared to be sending a message to both Israel and the residents of Gaza that another round of fighting is an option. Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was gearing up for a diplomatic battle against Abbas, who is seeking U.N. Security Council resolutions regarding Israel's borders and its treatment of Palestinians.
A resolution backed by Abbas would set November 2016 as the deadline for ending Israeli occupation of lands sought for a Palestinian state. Netanyahu is meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Rome on Monday to discuss the resolution.
The Israeli leader alleged Sunday that the resolution "will lead Islamic extremists to the outskirts of Tel Aviv and the heart of Jerusalem." He was apparently referring to fears that Hamas would take control of any future Palestinian state.
Kerry hopes to avert a possible Security Council clash over the issue