Hamas allows mass Fatah rally, first since 2007

Leaders of the Palestinian Fatah party led tens of thousands of supporters Friday in a mass rally in the Gaza Strip, the first such gathering for the largely secular party in the territory since rival Islamist Hamas seized power there in 2007.

The demonstration, condoned by Hamas, showed how the long-bitter relations between the rival Palestinian factions have improved since an Israeli assault on the Gaza Strip in November.

While Friday's rally pointed to the improving ties between Hamas and Fatah, it also served as a reminder of the conflicts within Fatah that continue to dog the movement: Officials cancelled the event halfway through after 20 people were injured due to overcrowding, and shoving matches erupted between separate Fatah factions.

Yahiya Rabah, a top Fatah official in Gaza, said the rally was cancelled "due to the huge number of participants and logistical failures."

But witnesses said one pushing match was between supporters of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and partisans of former Fatah's former Gaza security commander Mohammed Dahlan, who was expelled from the party because of conflicts with Abbas.

Fatah spokesman Fayez Abu Etta attributed the injuries to overcrowding and excitement .

Overnight, throngs had camped out in a downtown Gaza square to ensure themselves a spot for the anniversary commemoration of Fatah's 1965 founding.

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