Palestinian Fatah marks 55 years in West Bank, Gaza
LONDON - Thousands of supporters of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah movement, which rivals Gaza’s ruling Islamist Hamas, gathered in the enclave to mark Fatah’s 55th anniversary.
Waving yellow Fatah flags, supporters from across the territory gathered January 1 in Gaza City to celebrate the movement founded by Yasser Arafat.
The Interior Ministry in Gaza granted permission for the rally, an unidentified Hamas official told Agence France-Presse.
“We consented to having these festivities on Al-Wehda Street for Fatah to champion the unity of the Palestinian people. It’s a referendum on the public support for Fatah and the leadership of Abu Mazen,” he said, using Abbas’s nom de guerre.
Hundreds of Palestinians also marched through the West Bank city of Ramallah to mark the founding of the Fatah movement.
Fatah has long vied with Hamas for leadership of the Palestinian national struggle. In 2007, the two factions battled one another in Gaza, leading to the Hamas takeover of the coastal strip.
The peace process with Israel halted more than a decade ago, leaving the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority with limited control over parts of the occupied West Bank but little hope of soon achieving an independent state.
Israel annexed East Jerusalem in 1967, a move not recognised by the international community.
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu recently vowed to annex large parts of the West Bank, which would make it virtually impossible to establish a viable Palestinian state.
The Palestinian Authority wants the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem to form a future state alongside Israel.
No Palestinian elections, apart from local polls, have taken place since 2006 but Abbas recently pushed for a vote. Hamas called for a presidential decree setting the election date but Abbas said he first wants Israel to guarantee that the vote can take place in East Jerusalem.
“We will not accept elections without Jerusalem and without our people… Jerusalem is the capital of our state and it is not up for sale or negotiation,” Abbas said in a speech broadcast at the rally.
Abbas’s popularity and, by extension, Fatah’s following has plunged in recent years as Abbas has been unable to achieve an independent state or heal the rift with Hamas. Many Palestinians accuse the Palestinian Authority of rampant corruption.