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Some Gazans kept from Ramallah, but Fatah congress to go ahead

Palestinian officials say enough delegates will arrive to allow rare confab intended to choose members of party committee

Palestinian demonstrators hold Fatah party flags as they demonstrate in the center of the West Bank city of Hebron on November 4, 2015. (AFP/HAZEM BADER)
Palestinian demonstrators hold Fatah party flags as they demonstrate in the center of the West Bank city of Hebron on November 4, 2015. (AFP/HAZEM BADER)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah movement will go ahead with a rare congress despite Israel preventing dozens of delegates leaving the Gaza Strip to attend the event, a spokesman said.

The 1,400 delegates were due to convene in the West Bank city of Ramallah from Tuesday and Fatah spokesman Mahmoud Abu al-Hija told reporters that enough of them had already arrived there to constitute the required quorum.

“Around 1,200 members have arrived in Ramallah,” he said. Of the 380 Fatah members supposed to come from Gaza, “250 have arrived,” he said, adding that he hoped others could join them in Ramallah, “even after the opening of the congress.”

He did not comment on why Israel was blocking passage to the Gaza delegates, nor did the Israeli authorities responsible for the border crossing.

The spokesman of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah movement, Abu al-Haija speaks during a press conference on November 28, 2016 in Ramallah. (AFP PHOTO/ABBAS MOMANI)
The spokesman of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah movement, Abu al-Haija speaks during a press conference on November 28, 2016 in Ramallah. (AFP PHOTO/ABBAS MOMANI)

In general, Israel says it keeps tight control on who can leave the coastal strip in order to protect its own security.

Israel controls all the borders of the West Bank and Gaza Strip apart from the Gaza-Egypt frontier.

To reach the West Bank from Hamas-ruled Gaza, travelers must cross Israeli territory and undergo strict controls for a passage that is often unpredictable. Hamas is an Islamist terror group, avowedly committed to Israel’s destruction.

Since its creation in 1959, Fatah has only convened its congress six times, most recently in 2009 in Bethlehem, which was the first congress to be held in the West Bank or Gaza Strip.

The seventh Fatah congress is due to run for at least five days, with its high point being the announcement of candidates for the party’s Revolutionary Council of 120 members — 80 of them elected and 40 appointed.

Candidates will also be named for the movement’s Central Committee, which has 18 elected members and four appointed by the president.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas gestures as he gives a speech during a rally marking the 12th anniversary of the death of late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in the West Bank city of Ramallah on November 10, 2016. (AFP/ ABBAS MOMANI)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas gestures as he gives a speech during a rally marking the 12th anniversary of the death of late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in the West Bank city of Ramallah on November 10, 2016. (AFP/ ABBAS MOMANI)

Fatah is the main component of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), created in 1964 in then Jordanian East Jerusalem, and which at the time brought together the main Palestinian nationalist movements.

The Ramallah congress is expected to close ranks around Abbas, the 81-year-old leader of Fatah, the PLO and the Palestinian Authority, bolstering his authority without major policy changes.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this story.

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