GAZA CITY (AFP) - Hamas would consider a truce with Israel, but will never recognise the Jewish state, senior leader Ismail Haniya said on Tuesday as thousands of Gazans celebrated the groups 23rd anniversary. Speaking before flag-waving Palestinians from across the Gaza Strip, Haniya said the Islamist group would never recognise its sworn enemy. Let it be understood far and near that after the war, the siege, the internal and external plots: we will not recognise Israel, he told the cheering crowds. Our founder Sheikh (Ahmad) Yassin said: Liberate what you can of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Jerusalem, and where it cannot be liberated, declare a truce, he said, referring to the groups spiritual leader who was assassinated by Israel in 2004. Ahead of its anniversary celebrations, Hamas reiterated its aim to recover all of historic Palestine from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River. We will cede none of it, and we will not recognise the so-called state of Israel, a statement said on Monday, adding that its aim was to make Jerusalem the capital of the state of Palestine and pledging to work against Israels methods of Judaisation in the Holy City. The strident statements stood in sharp contrast Haniyas remarks on December 1, when he suggested Hamas could accept a negotiated peace deal if the Palestinian population and diaspora approved it in a referendum. Hamas will respect the results of a referendum even if the results conflict with Hamass positions, he told foreign journalists at the time. We accept a Palestinian state with full sovereignty on the land occupied in 1967 with Jerusalem as its capital and a solution to the issue of refugees. But the mood during Tuesdays celebration rally was much less conciliatory, with several Hamas leaders addressing the crowds from a stage adorned with a giant replica of Jerusalems golden-topped Dome of the Rock mosque. Large pictures of Hamas leaders were displayed under a banner reading I remain committed to the cause. Hamas bussed in supporters from across the coastal enclave, and children at government-run schools and students at three Hamas-affiliated universities were given the day off to attend the rally. Ahead of the celebrations, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said the rally would prove how popular the Islamist movement was among Gazans. The basic message the big crowds will send to all the parties is that lots of people support Hamas, Abu Zuhri told AFP. The aim of the siege on the Hamas movement and the Gaza Strip was to force us to raise the white flag of surrender, but Hamas will not break, he said. Israel imposed a blockade on Gaza after militants there captured an Israeli soldier in a deadly cross-border raid in 2006. It tightened the restrictions a year later after Hamas seized control of the territory from its secular Fatah rivals. The restrictions were relaxed earlier this year although a strict naval blockade remains in place. The hardline movement, whose name is an acronym for the Islamic Resistance Movement, was founded December 14, 1987 at the start of the first intifada (1987-1993) by Sheikh Ahmad Yassin, a blind and wheelchair-bound cleric. It quickly became known as the group which carried out the most suicide bombings against Israel during the 1990s and during the second intifada, which started in 2000 and petered out some five years later.