Sun, Jan 06, 2013 - Page 6 News List

Fatah rally in Gaza looks to unity

AP, GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip

Following the fighting, Fatah allowed Hamas to hold its first rally in the West Bank since the 2007 split. Hamas returned the favor on Friday by allowing the Fatah rally to take place. Still, the two sides have wide differences — over Israel and over the possibility of sharing power. Fatah has held several rounds of peace talks with the Jewish state and says it is committed to a two-state solution. Hamas does not recognize Israel and is officially committed to its destruction. Hamas has carried out hundreds of deadly attacks against Israeli citizens and is regarded by the US and Israel as a terrorist organization.

Hamas political leader Khaled Mashaal, considered more pragmatic than the movement’s Gaza-based hardline leaders, forged a reconciliation agreement with Abbas in 2011. However, the Gaza-based leadership has held up implementing it and has blamed Fatah of doing the same. Fatah enjoys Western support and has been pressured not to forge a unity agreement with the militant Hamas, facing a potential cutback in foreign aid if it does.

Friday’s rally also served as a reminder of the conflicts within Fatah itself that continue to dog the movement: Officials cancelled the event halfway through after 20 people were injured due to overcrowding, and shoving matches erupted between separate Fatah factions.

Yahiya Rabah, a top Fatah official in Gaza, said the rally was cancelled “due to the huge number of participants and logistical failures.”

However, witnesses said one pushing match was between supporters of Abbas and partisans of Fatah’s former Gaza security commander Mohammed Dahlan, who was expelled from the party because of conflicts with Abbas.

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