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Hundreds of thousands gather in Gaza for Fatah anniversary

Jan. 4, 2013 12:48 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 6, 2013 8:10 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Hundreds of thousands of Fatah supporters gathered in Gaza City on Friday to celebrate the 48th anniversary of the nationalist movement's founding, a Ma'an correspondent said.

Fatah supporters had been amassing at al-Saraya square in Gaza City since Thursday evening in preparation for the anniversary celebrations, with rallies taking place across the Gaza Strip overnight and into the early hours of Friday.

Senior Fatah leader Jamal Obeid told Ma'an that nearly one million people, both Fatah and non-Fatah supporters, gathered at al-Saraya square to join Fatah's anniversary celebrations, adding that the square had to be closed off.

Senior Fatah figures such as Jibril al-Rajoub, Osama al-Qawasmeh, Abu Ali Shaheen and Fadwa Barghouthi took part in the celebrations, with the message of Friday's events focusing on ending the division with Hamas and implementing national reconciliation.

A recorded speech by President Abbas was also shown to the crowds.

"Soon we will achieve unity and end the occupation, raising the Palestinian flag over Al-Aqsa mosque and Jerusalem," Abbas said.

"Our whole lives under occupation and siege, our eyes are now fixed on Jerusalem and we must all take this opportunity to combine our efforts, hearts, and our determination to save Jerusalem, our capital."

Abbas praised the steadfastness of the Gazan people and the history of the Fatah movement.

"The success of the rally is a success for Fatah, and for Hamas too," said Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri. "The positive atmosphere is a step on the way to regain national unity."

Gaza's interior ministry said that security forces are in place to ensure the safety of the public and Palestinian officials. They will also facilitate the movement of people and traffic in Gaza City.

An Egyptian official told Reuters that Cairo was preparing to invite the factions for new negotiations within two weeks.

It is the first time that Hamas has allowed Fatah to hold such events since it took power in 2007 during a violent confrontation which bitterly divided the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

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

The Fatah movement has long been a cornerstone in the nationalist struggle for Palestinian independence and a dominant force within the PLO and Palestinian Authority.

Reuters contributed to this report
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