Thousands of supporters of Palestinian Authority (PA) chairman Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah movement on Wednesday held a rare gathering in Gaza to mark the group’s 55th anniversary, AFP reported.
Waving yellow Fatah flags, supporters from across the territory gathered in Gaza City to celebrate the movement founded by former PA chairman Yasser Arafat, with some holding photographs of Abbas and Arafat.
The holding of the rally in Gaza is significant given the animosity between Gaza’s Hamas rulers and Fatah.
Hamas and Fatah have been embroiled in a bitter rivalry since 2007, when Hamas violently took over Gaza from Fatah in a bloody coup.
The two organizations signed a reconciliation deal in late 2017, but that agreement has never been implemented and is one of many attempts that have failed over the years to ease the tensions between the two groups.
Last year, Fatah cancelled its anniversary event in Gaza after dozens of its supporters were arrested by Hamas authorities.
The interior ministry in Gaza granted permission for Wednesday's rally to go ahead, according to a Hamas leader.
"We consented to holding these festivities on Al-Wehda Street for Fatah to champion the unity of the Palestinian people," the official told AFP, requesting anonymity.
"It's a referendum on the public support for Fatah and the leadership of Abu Mazen," he added, using the common nickname for Abbas.
On Tuesday, Fatah celebrated its anniversary with a rally in Ramallah, during which its members were seen wearing explosive belts.
The rallies follow Abbas’ renewed pledge to hold fresh parliamentary elections in the PA, which have not been held since 2006 when Hamas won an overwhelming majority.
However, the PA has chairman stressed that issuing a decree for holding elections is dependent on whether Israel would permit Arab residents of eastern Jerusalem to participate.
Hamas this past week urged Abbas to issue the decree and in that way force Israel to permit the election to be held in eastern Jerusalem as well.