Hamas allows rival Fatah to hold anniversary rally in Gaza

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Tens of thousands of Palestinians take to the streets in Gaza on Wednesday to mark the 55th anniversary of PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah movement.

The territory’s Hamas rulers permitted the event for the first time in years.

The Islamic terror group Hamas, which seized control of the Gaza Strip by force from the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority in 2007, allowed Fatah supporters to celebrate on a Gaza City street. They denied their request to organize the event at one of the city’s public squares or parks.

But the crowd is so big that several thousand people made their way to nearby Saraya Square, the site of the last massive anniversary festival that Hamas allowed in January 2013.

A Palestinian carries a picture of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, during a rally in Gaza City marking the 55th anniversary of the Fatah movement’s founding, January 1, 2020. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

The Hamas takeover left the Palestinians divided between two governments, with Hamas controlling Gaza and the internationally recognized Palestinian Authority governing autonomous areas of the Israeli-controlled West Bank.

Fatah and Hamas remain bitter enemies, and repeated attempts to reconcile have failed. But in recent months, they have both pledged to hold new elections. Hamas’s decision to permit Wednesday’s demonstration appeared to be a goodwill gesture toward Fatah.

“This year is the year of Palestinian unity and Fatah’s unity behind its leader Mahmoud Abbas,” says Ahmed Hilles, the top Fatah official in Gaza.

Fatah seeks to portray the large turnout as a reflection of its good standing, though its popularity has plunged in recent years. Abbas has failed to regain control of Gaza and move closer toward his goal of establishing an independent Palestinian state.

— Agencies

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