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Fatah official expects low-profile anniversary in Gaza

Dec. 25, 2012 7:11 P.M. (Updated: Dec. 26, 2012 8:14 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Hamas has refused to allow Fatah to celebrate its anniversary both the al-Katiba and al-Saraya squares citing security pretexts, a senior Fatah official said Tuesday.

Nabil Shaath told Ma’an that contacts between Hamas and Fatah over the location for Fatah's anniversary celebration in Gaza have stopped completely.

Thus, he added, Fatah decided to celebrate anniversary in Gaza in its own way without a major festival.

“I contacted Khalid Mashal and Mousa Abu Marzouq and both promised that everything would be all right. You will be just satisfied. However, it is clear that Hamas had made its decision to ban a Fatah celebration in a major square like al-Katiba or al-Saraya claiming they received information that troubles will erupt between Fatah officials at the festival,” Shaath told Ma’an.

This is false information, he said, highlighting that Hamas will not allow a major Fatah celebration fearing that will reveal there are huge numbers of Fatah supporters in the Gaza Strip.

This conflicts with the current prevailing good atmosphere, he added.

According to Shaath, Hamas suggested that Fatah celebrate its anniversary at al-Yarmouk stadium, yet he pointed out that the stadium was destroyed during the Israeli military offensive on Gaza.

The Fatah official told Ma’an that his movement studied celebrating in evacuated Israeli settlements, but weather conditions would make it very difficult.

Shaath's remarks followed a statement from Hamas insisting it was committed to national unity, but Fatah was turning the event's planning into a spectacle for the media.

The statement said Fatah had rejected every alternative venue for the event.

Atef Abu Saif, a Fatah official in Gaza, said the faction would agree to use al-Saraya square for the occasion, but only as an alternative to al-Katiba square.

He said the Hamas government's hurdles were poisoning the slightly improved atmosphere between the two groups in recent weeks, particularly after the Palestinian Authority let Hamas hold events in the West Bank.

Also Tuesday, the government in Gaza said it would release detainees from Fatah who were convicted of security and criminal offenses.

Ziyad al-Thatha, the deputy prime minister in Gaza, said the decision was aimed at promoting a good atmosphere for national reconciliation.

Speaking at a press briefing in Gaza City, the official said the government was allowing Fatah to operate in Gaza, and took a previous decision to allow 17 Fatah members to return.

Most senior Fatah officials departed Gaza in the aftermath of a brief civil war in 2007 when Hamas took control of Gaza and Fatah in the West Bank.

Years of talks have produced little and two reconciliation deals have yet to be implemented.
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