GAZA CITY: Hundreds of thousands of supporters of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party yesterdayday held a mass rally in Gaza, their first since Hamas seized control of the territory in 2007.
“Victory is near and we will meet you in Gaza in the near future,” Abbas said in a short speech from his West Bank headquarters in Ramallah, beamed to the Gaza crowd at the Saraya complex on giant screens.
“Gaza was the first Palestinian territory rid of (Israeli) occupation and settlement and we want a lifting of the blockade so that it can be free and linked to the rest of the nation.”
Hamas, in a sign of reconciliation with Fatah, permitted the rally to go ahead as the climax of a week of Gaza festivities celebrating the 48th anniversary of Fatah taking up arms against Israel.
Demonstrators, many of them women and children waved Palestinian and Fatah flags and carried pictures of Abbas, a correspondent reported. Balloons in the colours of the Palestinian flag with portraits of Abbas hovered above.
“This crowd is a vote in favour of (Abbas’s) Palestinian Authority and shows that Fatah is still out in front,” local Fatah leader Selim Al Zaraei said.
Fatah Gaza spokesman Fayez Abou Eita said that “hundreds of thousands of people are currently taking part in the public festivities.”
Hamas congratulated Fatah on the anniversary, saying it considered it a “celebration of national unity and a success for Hamas as well as Fatah”.
“This positive atmosphere is a step on road to restoring national unity,” it said.
Khan Younis resident Ayman Barbakh, 24, said he hoped the rally marked “the beginning of true unity and reconciliation, because our Palestinian people have suffered enough”.
“It’s been six years since we in Fatah have been waiting for this moment,” said participant Sabrine Srour. “I feel the joy I can see on people’s faces.”
A young man attempting to fasten a Fatah banner to an electricity pylon was killed and seven others were injured by electrocution, medical sources said.