Tens of thousands of supporters of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas’s Fatah party rallied in Hamas-ruled Gaza on Friday in the climax to the party’s first anniversary celebrations in the territory since 2007.
The event came at the end of a week of festivities in Gaza celebrating 48 years since Fatah took up arms.
Demonstrators waved Palestinian and Fatah flags, and carried pictures of Abbas at the rally which was organised with the blessing of Hamas as part of reconciliation efforts, an AFP correspondent reported.
The centrepiece of the event was to be a speech by Abbas from his West Bank headquarters in Ramallah, beamed to the crowd on giant screens.
That was to be followed by a speech by senior Fatah official Nabil Shaath, who travelled to Gaza from the the West Bank for the event.
He was to be followed by Hamas official Rawhi Mushtaha, who was to speak in the name of all the Palestinian factions.
Several thousand supporters gathered on Monday night at the Saraya complex in Gaza City, holding pictures of late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Abbas, and waving Fatah flags as fireworks went off, an AFP correspondent said.
Similar events took place across the Gaza Strip.
Hamas and Fatah have been at loggerheads since the Islamist movement seized control of Gaza in June 2007, following its victory in Palestinian parliamentary elections the previous year.
Under Egyptian mediation, the two groups reached a unity agreement in April 2011, although it has so far not been implemented.
The anniversary commemorates the first operation against Israel claimed by Fatah’s armed wing, then known as Al-Assifa (The Thunderstorm in Arabic), on January 1, 1965.