by Khaled Abu Toameh
The positive atmosphere that prevailed between Fatah and Hamas following Operation Pillar of Defense and the UN vote in favor of upgrading the status of the Palestinians to non-member observer state appeared Thursday to have ended as the two rival parties resumed their verbal attacks on each other.
The new crisis erupted after Fatah announced the cancellation of celebrations in the Gaza Strip that were scheduled for the end of this month to mark the 48th anniversary of its founding.
Fatah officials in the Gaza Strip said they decided to cancel the celebrations because the Hamas government would not allow them to hold rallies in two of Gaza City's main squares.
Hamas has banned Fatah from holding major rallies in the Gaza Strip ever since the Islamist movement took control over the area in 2007.
Fatah, on the other hand, recently permitted Hamas to celebrate its anniversary in several West Bank cities for the first time since 2007.
But in the wake of the recent rapprochement between the two parties, the Hamas government announced two weeks ago that it had given permission to Fatah to celebrate the event in the Gaza Strip.
However, Hamas rejected Fatah's demand to hold the rallies in two squares and offered alternative venues, including the Yarmouk Stadium in Gaza City and the site of former Jewish settlements.
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri cited security reasons to justify his movement's opposition to holding Fatah rallies in the two squares.
He claimed that information received by Hamas indicated that "saboteurs" were planning to attack the Fatah rallies. He did not provide further details. Nor did he identify the "saboteurs."
Abu Zuhri denied Fatah claims that Hamas had banned the rallies.
He said that the talk about banning the rallies was "very negative and unsuitable."
The Hamas spokesman said that his movement's agreement in principle to allow the rallies to take place in the Gaza Strip was a "positive step aimed at paving the way for Palestinian reconciliation."
Another Hamas official said that his movement was worried that supporters of ousted Fatah operative Mohamed Dahlan, who fell out with PA President Mahmoud Abbas, were planning to disrupt the rallies and turn them into anti-PA events.
Yehya Rabah, a senior Fatah official in the Gaza Strip, held the Hamas government fully responsible for the cancellation of the Fatah events.
Rabah said that Fatah tried over the past three weeks to reach agreement with Hamas over the venue of the rallies, but to no avail. Egypt and Qatar also tried to mediate between the two sides to solve the crisis, he added.
The Fatah official confirmed that Hamas had proposed two alternative locations for holding the rallies.
He said that the site of former Jewish settlements was lacking in infrastructure, while the Yarmouk Stadium had been bombed by Israel during the last war and was in danger of collapsing.
Khaled Abu Toameh
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