Palestinians Make New Show of Unity

GAZA (Reuters) -

President Mahmoud Abbas predicted the end of a five-year split between the two big Palestinian factions as his Fatah movement staged its first mass rally in Gaza after getting the go-ahead from Hamas.

“Soon we will regain our unity,” Abbas said in an address broadcast to hundreds of thousands of followers marching in Gaza on Friday, with yellow Fatah flags instead of the green of Hamas.

The two terrorist organizations have engaged in on-again-off-again unity talks since last year. Despite some close calls, though, they have remained separate and wary of each other.

However, the Palestinian rivals have drawn closer since Operation Pillar of Defense in November.

Egypt has long tried to broker a Hamas-Fatah reconciliation, but past efforts have foundered over questions of power-sharing, control of weaponry and to what extent Israel and other powers would accept a Palestinian administration including Hamas.

An Egyptian official told Reuters Cairo was preparing to invite the factions for new negotiations within two weeks.

The demonstration marked 48 years since Fatah’s founding under Yasser Arafat.