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Palestinians in West Bank and Gaza commemorate Fatah's 52nd anniversary

Dec. 31, 2016 9:03 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 1, 2017 4:11 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Supporters of the Fatah movement held rallies in the occupied West Bank and besieged Gaza Strip Saturday to commemorate the 52nd anniversary of the Palestinian revolution and the establishment of Fatah, with intraparty clashes breaking out at a celebration in Gaza City.

Jan. 1, 1965 has been officially recognized as the start of the longstanding Palestinian revolution against Israeli colonization of Palestinian lands, refugee rights, and the ensuing Israeli occupation, now entering its 50th year.

The year was marked by the founding of the Fatah national party and the first Palestinian attack on Israeli military targets.

In a televised speech Saturday evening on the occasion of the anniversary, Abbas addressed the newly passed UN Security Council resolution 2334, and demanded Israel to stop all settlement activities and to avoid making any changes to the demographic situation of "the land of the state of Palestine which has been occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem."

He reiterated that the Palestinian Authority would continue to extend a hand for peace, but won't accept interim solutions or a Palestinian state with interim borders. The Israeli government, he said, "has been trying to overturn facts and mislead the international community while continuing to establish colonies maintaining one state solution and racial discrimination."

Earlier Saturday afternoon, thousands gathered at Gaza City's Unknown Soldier Square for a torch-lighting ceremony to commemorate the anniversary.

A Fatah spokesman in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip Fayiz Abu Eita applauded the rally’s attendants "who came out to confirm their support of Fatah and its leadership headed by President Mahmoud Abbas."

He said that the Fatah movement would continue on its path of resistance through “all legitimate means,” remain committed to national unity, and would continue to exert efforts to end the crippling siege imposed on the Gaza Strip.

However, amid the celebrations, clashes broke out between supporters of Palestinian President and Fatah Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and supporters of his rival Mohammed Dahlan, formerly a Fatah strongman in the Gaza Strip who has been dismissed from the movement.

Supporters of each side tried to overpower each other at the Unknown Soldier's statue, sparking heated arguments that developed into clashes with batons and fireworks.

Head of the Emergency Department of al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City confirmed that 11 people were treated for minor wounds and cuts as a result of the clashes.

Meanwhile, spokesman Abu Eita addressed in his statement divisions between Fatah and the Hamas movement.

"The political disagreements can come to an end through implementation of the Cairo agreement rather than a federal union between the West Bank and Gaza," Abu Eita said, reacting to remarks made by senior Hamas' leader Mousa Abu Marzouq.

Earlier on Saturday, the exiled Hamas leader expressed support for establishing a federal union between Hamas that rules the Gaza Strip and the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority (PA) that governs the occupied West Bank.

In a televised interview with al-Ghad satellite TV in the United Arab Emirates, Abu Marzouq said Hamas "will oppose the creation of a state in Gaza alone as well as the creation of a state without Gaza."

Abu Marzouq said that Hamas would respond positively to an invitation to a Palestine National Council meeting only if it were held outside the West Bank. If Cairo agrees to host such meeting, Hamas will completely welcome that meeting, and if not, "we welcome the meeting anywhere except in Ramallah and under occupation," he said.

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Meanwhile, hundreds of Fatah supporters took to the streets Saturday night to commemorate the anniversary in the northern occupied West Bank city of Qalqiliya.

Governor of Qalqiliya Rafi Rawajba joined the ceremony along with senior Fatah officials, lawmakers, and security service commanders, including Secretary General of Fatah in Qalqiliya Mahmoud al-Walwil.

The celebration started with a torch lighting ceremony outside the offices of the special police forces, then participants rallied to Abu Ali Iyad square waving Palestinian flags and Fatah flags and chanting slogans against Israeli occupation.

The governor delivered a speech urging Fatah supporters to continue to support the movement's leadership under Abbas. He also maintained that the Palestinian people should continue with "peaceful resistance" until they obtain freedom and independence.
The secular, nationalist Fatah movement -- meaning “conquest” in Arabic -- was founded in 1965 by late President Yasser Arafat and has long been the dominant force in Palestinian politics and a cornerstone in the nationalist struggle.

However, amid growing dissent within Fatah in recent years and calls for Abbas to step down, the PA in the West Bank has come under fire for cracking down on Palestinians for criticizing the government and Fatah members that diverge from the party line.

Meanwhile, Fatah and Hamas remain entrenched in rivalry, with the two parties having had particularly tense relations since Hamas won legislative elections in 2006 and became the ruling party in the Gaza Strip.

Municipal elections set to be held earlier this month were postponed following a controversial decision by the Fatah-run Supreme Court in Ramallah. They were to be the first elections in the Gaza Strip in a decade.

Officials from the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority have criticized Hamas for creating a shadow government in the Gaza Strip and blocking efforts to reach political unity. Hamas has in turn accused the PA of executing a plan to "eradicate" the movement from the West Bank, saying that an arrest campaign of hundreds of members was carried out by the PA to target reconciliation efforts between the two factions.

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