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January 2, 2020 5:24 pm

Thousands of Palestinians Mark 55th Fatah Anniversary With West Bank, Gaza Rallies

avatar by Shiri Moshe

Supporters celebrate Fatah’s 55th anniversary in Gaza City on January 1, 2020. Photo: Fatah.

Thousands of Palestinians celebrated the nationalist Fatah party’s 55th anniversary in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip this week, with rallies featuring music, speeches, and occasional displays of armed force.

Fatah, which controls the Palestinian Authority (PA), was established by late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in 1965 and carried out its first attack against Israel that year. It is currently chaired by PA President Mahmoud Abbas.

At his presidential headquarters in Ramallah, Abbas lit a torch during a Tuesday ceremony attended by members of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s (PLO) Executive Committee, as well as Fatah’s executive and parliamentary bodies, the PA-run Palestine News Agency reported. Hundreds attended a march in the city hours earlier, among them dozens of masked figures carrying assault rifles and torches. Some participants also donned mock suicide vests, in an apparent nod to past Fatah bombing attacks carried out against Israeli targets.

ملثمون يحتفلون بذكرى انطلاقة حركة فتح برام الله

هكذا احتفل ملثمون من حركة فتح بذكرى انطلاقتها في رام الله

Posted by ‎شبكة قدس الإخبارية‎ on Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Thousands of Fatah supporters were allowed to gather the following day in Gaza, which is ruled by the party’s bitter rival Hamas, a US-designated terrorist organization. The two Palestinian factions battled for control of Gaza in 2007 and have failed to reconcile since.

“We consented to holding these festivities on Al-Wehda Street for Fatah to champion the unity of the Palestinian people,” an anonymous Hamas official told Agence France-Presse, calling the event “a referendum” on public support for Fatah.

Rally goers held posters of Arafat, Abbas, and other Fatah leaders, such as Samih Madhoun, a leader in Fatah’s armed wing — the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades — who was killed by Hamas militants in 2007. The Brigades are also designated as a terrorist organization by the US, though Fatah itself is not.

Additional celebrations were organized across the West Bank, including in Bethlehem, Hebron, Nablus, and Jenin, according to photos and videos shared by Fatah on social media. Rifles and handguns were carried, and at times fired, by some marchers in the towns of Yatta, Salfit, and Halhul, among others.

شبيبة سلفيت تنظم عرضاً عسكرياً احتفالاً بالانطلاقة ال ٥٥ للثورة الفلسطينية.#فتح55

Posted by ‎حركة التحرير الوطني الفلسطيني " فتح "/الصفحة الرسمية‎ on Wednesday, January 1, 2020

In Bethlehem, dozens of masked men took to the streets on Wednesday while waving the Fatah flag, which features a grenade and two rifles over a unified map of Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza. Some marchers displayed a poster of Dalal Mughrabi, who participated in the massacre of 38 civilians, 13 of them children, on a bus near Tel Aviv in 1978.

إحياء الذكرى الـ55 لانطلاقة الثورة الفلسطينية في بيت لحم

إحياء الذكرى الـ55 لانطلاقة الثورة الفلسطينية في بيت لحم

Posted by ‎حركة التحرير الوطني الفلسطيني " فتح "/الصفحة الرسمية‎ on Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Another poster featured a photo of Marwan Barghouti, who served as a leader of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades. Barghouti was convicted by an Israeli court of orchestrating the murder of five civilians, and is blamed for aiding the deaths of many others through his leadership role during the Second Intifada. He remains a popular figure in the Palestinian territories, and has been regarded as a potential successor to Abbas, who is currently entering the 15th year of his four-year presidential term.

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