Fatah Secretary-General Jibril Rajoub announced on Monday that rival Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas will hold a joint rally in the Gaza Strip against Israeli annexation “in the coming days,” according to a statement published by the Palestinian Authority’s official WAFA news agency.
“The rally will be a historic point in consolidating the united Palestinian position in the face of the annexation project,” Rajoub said, referring to Israel’s declared plan to annex parts of the West Bank in accordance with US President Donald Trump’s controversial peace plan — a plan that in recent weeks appear to have been put on the back burner amid a resurgent coronavirus and a hesitant White House.
According to Rajoub, both Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and other “national leaders” will speak at the event. It was unclear from the statement whether Abbas would participate by video, though that was highly likely.
The head of the Hamas terror organization, Ismail Haniyeh, will also speak at the event, Hamas political bureau member Khalil al-Hayya said in a statement.
“This is a message to all sides. We are stressing the unified position of our people in all its factions and forces, wherever they are located, against the annexation plan,'” al-Hayya said.
Fatah and Gaza-based terror group Hamas have been bitterly divided since 2007, when a bloody civil war between the two rival Palestinian movements ended with Hamas expelling Fatah from the Gaza Strip. Several attempts have been made since to mend the rift in Palestinian politics, but so far none of has been successful.
Rajoub said that the joint rally would send a message of Palestinian unity to the world, while emphasizing that the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Liberation Organization would remain in charge.
“We must raise the voices of the united Palestinian people, who adhere to the establishment of an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital, based on the 1967 borders and the return of refugees in accordance with international law, under the leadership of the Palestine Liberation Organization,” Rajoub said.
In what they called a step towards “national unity,” Rajoub and Hamas deputy Salih al-Arouri held a press conference on July 2, in which they announced that the two movements would coordinate on anti-annexation activities.
Arouri has directed numerous terrorist attacks against Israeli soldiers and civilians, including the 2014 murder of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank. In 2018, the US State Department issued a $5 million bounty for his capture.
“All the controversial issues on which we differ, we will set those aside… We and Fatah and all the Palestinian factions are facing an existential threat, and we must work together,” said Arouri.
Arouri said that coordination between the two organizations would begin “a new phase that will be a strategic service to our people,” emphasizing that Hamas would use “all forms of struggle and resistance against the annexation project.”
The announcement was received with broad skepticism among Palestinians, who have seen numerous reconciliation attempts — and even unity governments on paper — come and go without tangible results. While the two leaders sought to downplay differences between the two organizations, many seemed doubtful that this time was any different.
“Our people have an enormous amount of skepticism with regard to the potential for national unity. Previous attempts did not end up having an impact on the ground,” Hamas deputy Hussam Badran acknowledged at a subsequent press conference with Fatah Central Committee member Ahmad Hilles.
A joint rally with a speech by Abbas, who has little love for the terror group which expelled his movement for the Gaza Strip, could allay some of the cynicism among Palestinians about the potential for reconciliation.
Deep divisions between the two groups still remain, however. While Fatah officials have made declarations in recent weeks about cooperation with Hamas, the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority does not seem to have permitted the terror group a freer hand in the West Bank.
On the same day that Rajoub and al-Arouri held their press conference, PA security forces broke up a rally in Jenin at which Hamas flags were raised. Hamas condemned the action, calling on the PA to “preserve the spirit of unity,” according to the Hamas-linked Safa News Agency.