Yellow Fatah flags flying in Gaza on January 4 signalled a warming of relations between opposing Palestinian cousins.
For the first time in five years, the rulers in Gaza, Hamas, allowed the partisans there of the rival movement Fatah to celebrate its 48th anniversary.
Ties have been reinforced by the paralysis of peace talks with Israel and by the Israelis’ Operation Pillar of Defence recent bombardments.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was linked live by television from Ramallah in the West Bank, to address the demonstration in Gaza.
Abbas said: “We should work together, in unity, and there is no better choice than unity to achieve our national goals and attain victory.”
Islamists Hamas also spoke in terms of reconciliation and deepening solidarity with secular Fatah – the two big Palestinian factions.
The hardline movement’s spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said of his party: “We consider this [celebration] is a success for Hamas as well as for Fatah, and we consider this positive atmosphere a real step towards achieving Palestinian unity.”
With this, a page may have turned, which ignited in 2007 when the factions clashed in a mini-civil war.
Hamas had won a parliamentary election, and the two formed a volatile coalition.
It couldn’t last, and Hamas fighters drove those of Fatah out of the Gaza strip.
Fatah entrenched in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, and the international community shunned Hamas.
Yet the Arab Spring uprisings in 2011 brought a groundshift. Head of Hamas Political Bureau Khaled Meshaal, a senior leader in exile, relocated from Damascus to Cairo, where he and Mahmoud Abbas met to bury the hatchet.
Meshaal said: “On behalf of Hamas, I announce – and this is perhaps shared by all factions – that we are ready; we have decided to pay any price for the sake of reconciliation and completion, to turn words on paper into reality.”
It helped Palestinians’ morale immensely that the United Nations General Assembly voted overwhelmingly in favour of Abbas’s bid for non-member observer status for Palestine as a state rather than just an entity.