Rare Fatah rally in Gaza

Rare Fatah rally in Gaza
Gaza City's Al-Katiba square turned into a sea of Fatah flags, as crowds marked the 58th anniversary of Fatah foundation.
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Palestinian take part in Fatah movement rally marking the 58th anniversary of the creation of the party. (Photo by Ahmed Zakot/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Thousands in the  Gaza Strip staged one of the biggest celebrations in years for the Fatah movement of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas on Saturday.

The demonstrators turned Gaza City's Al-Katiba square into a sea of yellow as they waved Fatah flags to mark the 58th anniversary of the party's foundation.

Fatah rallies on this scale have been a rarity in Gaza for the past decade and a half.

Fatah has been at odds with Hamas since the Islamist movement won an upset victory in Palestinian parliamentary elections in 2006 but failed to form an administration acceptable to the international community.

The following year,  Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip beginning years of division, with Fatah administering Palestinian-run areas of the Israeli-occupied West Bank.


In an address to the crowd, Fatah's Gaza chief, Ahmed Helles, called for reconciliation between the rival factions following the swearing in on Thursday of the most right-wing government in Israel's history.

The new coalition led by veteran hawk Benjamin Netanyahu "will go as other racist governments have gone and our people will remain," Helles said.

"The time has come to achieve national reconciliation."

Fatah spokesperson Monther al-Hayek told AFP that it was time for Palestinian "national unity to confront Netanyahu's extremist government."

Abbas and Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh met in Algiers in July for their first public meeting in more than five years. Yet the rare moment has so far failed to bring wider reconciliation.

In October, the two movements signed a reconciliation deal in Algiers, though Abbas was not present and the deal has not been implemented.