Hamas allows rival Fatah to mark anniversary in Gaza rally

Hamas allows rival Fatah to mark anniversary in Gaza rally


GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — Tens of thousands of Palestinians took to the streets in Gaza on Wednesday to mark the 55th anniversary of President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah movement.

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

The militant Islamic 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 was 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.

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-occupied 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' 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,” said Ahmed Hilles, the top Fatah official in Gaza.

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

Further hurting Abbas' standing, the Palestinian leader slashed the salaries of thousands of Palestinian Authority civil servants in Gaza. The step, meant to put additional pressure on the cash-strapped Hamas government to provide for its people, backfired and provoked anger toward Abbas.

Hilles promised to work on restoring the full payments to the workers. “We are one movement and one people,” he said.

On Tuesday, thousands of Fatah supporters who are loyal to Mohammed Dahlan, a former Fatah strongman who is now a rival of Abbas while living in exile, organized a similar rally in the middle of the city.

Despite the challenges, the participants said they hope Hamas will allow them to mark the anniversary every year.

“We came here to tell everybody that Fatah is still well,” said Mohammed al-Raqagh, a supporter draping the Palestinian flag around his body.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Be the first to know

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Related to this story

Most Popular

  • Updated

BERLIN (AP) — Six people were killed and another two wounded in a shooting in the southwestern German town of Rot am See on Friday, police said. The suspect's parents were among the dead and the other victims also were believed to be relatives.

  • Updated

BEIJING (AP) — A new viral illness being watched with a wary eye around the globe accelerated its spread in China with 80 deaths so far, while the U.S. Consulate in the city at the epicenter announced it will evacuate its personnel and some other Americans aboard a charter flight.

  • Updated

BEIJING (AP) — China's leader on Saturday called the accelerating spread of a new virus a grave situation, as cities from the outbreak's epicenter in central China to Hong Kong scrambled to contain an illness that has infected more than 1,200 people and killed 41.

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.


News Alert

Breaking News