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Gaza rallies ahead of Fatah anniversary

Jan. 3, 2013 9:51 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 4, 2013 5:38 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma’an) -- Palestinian supporters of Fatah started massing in the main squares in the Gaza Strip ahead of an official anniversary festival for the party on Friday.

A Ma'an correspondent said traffic was at a standstill around Saraya square in Gaza City on Thursday night, where flag-waving crowds gathered to celebrate Fatah's 48th year.

Supporters carried Fatah banners and chanted slogans of the party, in the first mass rally since Hamas took control of Gaza in 2007.

Similar marches took places in cities across the Gaza Strip on Thursday evening, witnesses told Ma'an.

Earlier Thursday, Fatah founder Abdul Aziz Shaheen, known as Abu Ali, entered Gaza for the first time in more than five years, accompanied by Fatah Central Committee member and former PA security chief Jibril Al-Rajoub, as well as Osama Al-Qawasmi, the spokesman of Fatah in the West Bank.

Friday's festival in Saraya square will feature cultural performances and a recorded speech by President Mahmoud Abbas.

It will be the first time that Hamas has allowed Fatah to hold such events since it took power in a violent confrontation that began over five years of bitterly divided governments.

Fatah also permitted a Hamas anniversary rally in the West Bank earlier this month for the first time, raising hopes of improving relations between the rival factions.

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