source by: AP Photo/Adel Hana
Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians gathered in a Gaza City park Saturday to celebrate Fatah’s 58th anniversary, a rare display of popularity in the heartland of Hamas, Fatah’s major adversary.
The crowds filled Katiba Park with yellow flags and pictures of Fatah’s founders and leaders, such as Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Yasser Arafat, who was Abbas’s predecessor.
Hamas took over Gaza in 2007 after pro-Abbas forces were defeated. They let Fatah hold the rally. After taking over in 2007, Hamas has blocked or limited Fatah’s activities more than once.
While polls show Fatah is unpopular, the large turnout could be perceived as a unique opportunity to protest Hamas’ oppressive control in Gaza. The Islamic group has exhausted Gazans with high fees amid record unemployment and poverty. Israel maintains a punishing Israeli-Egyptian siege to prevent Hamas from arming. Critics call the blockade collective punishment.
Fatah declared its origin on Jan. 1, 1965, when it launched its first violent attack against Israel from Lebanon. In the 1990s, Arafat signed a peace deal with Israel and established the Palestinian Authority to govern Gaza and parts of the West Bank.
The rally is happening when Palestinians are fighting with each other. Fatah and Hamas, the two biggest Palestinian groups, are still bitter enemies, even though the Arabs have tried many times to bring them together.