Palestinian Strongman Mahmoud Dahlan’s Allies Hold Rally in Gaza Strip

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TEL AVIV — Palestinian strongman Mohammad Dahlan’s camp within the Fatah movement held a huge assembly with Hamas on Thursday as part of what they called “the social reconciliation” between Dahlan’s camp in Fatah and the Hamas terrorist group.

Dahlan is a longtime rival of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. The two sides were the main players in the 2007 conflict that ended in Hamas’ forceful takeover of the Gaza Strip, during which dozens of Palestinians were killed. Dahlan was then in charge of security forces in Gaza.

In recent months, Hamas and Dahlan concluded that the two sides would reconcile the families of the deceased on both sides, paying $50,000 to every family that lost a member in the internal fighting and $30,000 to those who survived with wounds. The money for the project is coming from the United Arab Emirates, which gathered $50 million in funds for this purpose. The project has so far resulted in dozens of families receiving their promised reparations.

Besides the leaders of Dahlan’s camp, Hamas officials also participated in the assembly, including Salah Bardawil and Khalil al-Hayeh, both members of Hamas’ so-called politburo. In addition, representatives of the various Palestinian factions were present. Dahlan’s influence on the assembly was at its clearest during the assembly when dozens of Emirati and Egyptian flags were flown. Egypt and the Emirates are the two countries considered the most prominent supporters of Dahlan in the Arab world.

But Dahlan’s camp tried to take advantage of the presence of such a large group, numbering in the thousands, and announced that the assembly was also symbolically held to mark 12 years since the death of former Palestinian Authority president and Fatah founder Yasser Arafat, just two days before the main, official gathering planned by Fatah for Saturday.

Officials from among Dahlan’s people spoke during the assembly, including Majed Abou Shamaleh stressed his support for the internal Palestinian reconciliation efforts and called for reconciliation within the Fatah party, as well.

Abou Shamaleh said that 140 families from among Hamas and Fatah supporters have so far been reconciled as part of the social community reconciliation.

Al-Hayeh, who spoke on behalf of Hamas, also discussed the years of Arafat’s life “in which he fought the occupation.” Al-Hayeh portrayed Arafat, an arch terrorist, as a symbol of Palestinian unity and noted that, “Arafat wasn’t only a Fatah member. He was a Palestinian who united all the Palestinians and he paid with his life for waving the flag of the resistance and crowned his life spent as a revolutionary.”

According to al-Hayeh, “Arafat embraced the resistance, funded it and armed it and today there are officials in Israeli prison who received money directly from the resting president Arafat.”

“Resistance” is often used by Palestinian officials as a euphemism for terrorism targeting Israelis.