Rapprochement between rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah received a new boost on Monday, after each of the movements said it would allow the other to hold rallies in their respective territories for the first time since the groups violently broke in 2007.
Observers say that Hamas’s perceived victory over Israel in Operation Pillar of Defense and the Palestinian Authority’s successful bid to receive recognition as a nonmember observer state at the UN have allowed the two organizations to perform political overtures that were not possible before.
National reconciliation remains a central demand for average Palestinians and PA President Mahmoud Abbas promised to give it priority upon his return from New York last week.
Khalil Assaf, head of the Consortium of Independent Palestinians, a grassroots organization of businessmen and academics, said Monday that Hamas would hold a mass rally in the West Bank city of Nablus this Thursday to mark the movement’s 25th anniversary. On Saturday, Hamas brought hundreds of thousands of supporters to the streets of Gaza to celebrate the occasion.
“The atmosphere of reconciliation has become real here in Nablus,” Assaf, a politically unaffiliated engineer and businessman, told The Times of Israel. “Until recently there was fear [to hold Hamas activities], but now things are more positive and it’s only natural to allow such celebrations, which used to take place in the past.”
‘Until recently there was fear [to hold Hamas activities], but now things are more positive and it’s only natural to allow such celebrations, which were possible in the past’
Similar goodwill could be felt in Gaza as well. Two days after Hamas held its Gaza rally on Saturday, Fatah announced that it, too, would hold celebrations in the city marking the 48th anniversary of the “Palestinian revolution” — a reference to Fatah’s first armed attack against Israel’s national water pipeline on December 31, 1964.
According to a statement issued by the Fatah office in Gaza Sunday, the celebrations will highlight “the Palestinian principles”: the Palestinian refugees’ right of return; independence; Jerusalem; the right to use [armed] resistance; and the release of prisoners.
Ahmad Assaf, a spokesman for Fatah in the West Bank, confirmed that his movement would be allowed to celebrate in Gaza for the first time in five years.
“It is only natural for such celebrations to take place in Gaza,” Assaf told The Times of Israel. “What was unnatural was that they were banned before.”
Assaf added that the new atmosphere of reconciliation will hopefully allow celebrations to occur annually in the Gaza Strip, as they do in the West Bank and in Palestinian refugee camps abroad.
Goodwill between Fatah and Hamas has not yet trickled all the way down, however. Members of the Palestinian Authority’s security forces continued to arrest and question Hamas operatives in cities across the West Bank over the weekend, according to the Palestinian Information Center, a Hamas-affiliated news agency.