Hamas rally stirs hope among Palestinians for unity


West Bank

The green banners of Hamas were openly raised at Nablus on the West Bank as thousands gathered for the militant Islamist group's first permitted rally in the West Bank in five years, a sign of a thaw in a bitter split with Fatah, the faction that dominates the Palestinian Authority.

Police observed but did not interfere in the celebration of Hamas's 25th anniversary, which came amid increasing talk of advancing a reconciliation accord that was signed by Hamas and Fatah last year but left unfulfilled despite strong popular demand.

Hamas has ruled the Gaza Strip since routing Fatah in a brief civil war in June 2007, while Fatah has consolidated its control of the West Bank, dividing Palestinians geographically and politically. The rift has dealt a heavy blow to Palestinian hopes of achieving an independent state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

But Hamas asserted victory after an eight-day conflict with Israel last month, and the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority spearheaded a successful bid to gain limited statehood recognition at the United Nations. The events gave each faction a boost, generating renewed momentum toward reconciliation.

Both Hamas, which advocates armed attacks on Israel, and Fatah, which favors diplomacy, are saying that their strategies worked.

"Because Hamas believes that they have won the battle of Gaza and we believe that we have won the U.N. vote, you have two winning parties, and when you have two winning parties, they have more ability to compromise," said Muhammad Shtayyeh, a member of Fatah's central committee and an adviser to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

"There is a general positive mood for reconciliation," Shtayyeh added, speaking in a telephone interview.

At the Nablus rally, pro-Hamas songs blared from loudspeakers and banners of the group were hung from balconies packed with onlookers after years in which such displays were banned. Women in white head scarves and green Hamas headbands held up models of rockets fired at Israel in the recent conflict as the crowd roared, "God is Great!"

Abdel Nasser Rabi, one of the Hamas supporters, said the gathering was "a beginning" that he hoped would be followed by "more steps toward freedom of expression and national agreement."

Reflecting the renewed spirit of rapprochement, a top Fatah leader in Nablus, Amin Makboul, addressed the rally, calling it a good start on the path to reconciliation.

Nasser al-Din al-Shaer, a Hamas legislator, said the gathering was a sign of Palestinian unity, adding: "Without unity, the Palestinians cannot accomplish the end of the [Israeli] occupation."

Another Hamas rally is planned for Friday in Hebron, in the southern West Bank, and Hamas is reciprocating by allowing Fatah to celebrate its anniversary in Gaza on Jan. 1 after banning such rallies in recent years.

Both Abbas and Hamas' political leader, Khaled Meshal, who visited Gaza last week, have in recent days urged renewed efforts to carry out their reconciliation accord, whose implementation still faces daunting obstacles.

Attempts to form a joint interim government have foundered, and preparations for elections stalled after Hamas stopped the work of registration officials in Gaza, accusing the Palestinian Authority of arresting and restricting registration by Hamas members in the West Bank.

Neither have there been any moves to release prisoners from the factions being held in Gaza and the West Bank.

Several people interviewed at Tuesday's celebration said they had been arrested in the past by the Palestinian Authority and that they were unsure whether the rally would be followed by an easing of the crackdown on Hamas in the West Bank.

Muataz Sbeih, a teacher who said he had been recently reinstated after being fired from his job because of his support for Hamas, said he was skeptical that the rally heralded a change in policy. Allowing the celebration, he said, was a nod to public sentiment after the Gaza war's boosting of Hamas' popularity.

"Time will tell if this is real reconciliation," he said.

ebookA powerful collection of reportage on Egypt’s cycle of awakening and relapse
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
Arts and Entertainment
Characters in the new series are based on real people, say its creators, unlike Arya and Clegane the Dog in ‘Game of Thrones’
tv'The Last Kingdom' is based on historical events
Arts and Entertainment
Chocolat author Joanne Harris has spoken about the financial struggles most authors face
Arts and Entertainment
filmSir Ian McKellen will play retired detective in new film
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
'Molecular Man +1+1+1' by Jonathan Borofsky at Yorkshire Sculpture park
Glamour magazine hosts a yoga class with Yogalosophy author Mandy Ingber on June 10, 2013 in New York City.
newsFather Padraig O'Baoill said the exercise was 'unsavoury' in a weekly parish newsletter
people'She is unstoppable', says Jean Paul Gaultier at Paris show
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SAP Data Migration Consultant

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: I am interested in speaking to Data Migr...

Web Services Developer

£200 - £450 per day: Harrington Starr: Web Services Developer Web Services, WP...

Project Manager - (Housing Association, Prince 2) - Watford

£45000 - £50000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Project Manager - (Housin...

Trainee Recruitment Consultants For Multiple UK Offices

£18000 - £25000 per annum + DOE, OTE £40000: SThree: LONDON - BRISTOL - DUBLIN...

Day In a Page

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice
Hollywood targets Asian audiences as US films enjoy record-breaking run at Chinese box office

Hollywood targets Asian audiences

The world's second biggest movie market is fast becoming the Hollywood studios' most crucial
Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app - and my mum keeps trying to hook me up!'

Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app'

Five years on from its launch and Grindr is the world's most popular dating app for gay men. Its founder Joel Simkhai answers his critics, describes his isolation as a child
Autocorrect has its uses but it can go rogue with embarrassing results - so is it time to ditch it?

Is it time to ditch autocorrect?

Matthew J X Malady persuaded friends to message manually instead, but failed to factor in fat fingers and drunk texting
10 best girls' summer dresses

Frock chick: 10 best girls' summer dresses

Get them ready for the holidays with these cool and pretty options 
Westminster’s dark secret: Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together

Westminster’s dark secret

Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Dulce et decorum est - a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Dulce et decorum est: a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality
Google tells popular music website to censor album cover art in 'sexually explicit content' ban

Naked censorship?

The strange case of Google, the music website and the nudity take-down requests
Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

As England take on India at Trent Bridge, here is our pick of the high-performing bats to help you up your run-count this summer 
Brazil vs Germany World Cup 2014 comment: David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

Captain appears to give up as shocking 7-1 World Cup semi-final defeat threatens ramifications in Brazil