Observers say the clashes in Gaza between police and gunmen from the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the biggest military group within Fatah, show that attempts at unity will prove extremely difficult for leaders of the movement. Fatah was created by Yasser Arafat in 1959. The objective was a common one for the Palestinians: fight Israel and liberate all Palestinian territory from what they called the “zionist entity.” For many years Fatah was the umbrella group for Palestinian factions who shared the same goals.
Then, after years of conflict, there were hopes of peace, with accords signed in Oslo. Fatah and PLO leaders returned to Gaza, with Arafat in charge. Among those returning from exile were the men considered as the old guard. With his charisma and image of being an irreplaceable leader, Arafat was able to cover over the cracks in his party. The divisions became more and more obvious though between veteran fighters and the younger generation.
After the death of Arafat, there was nothing to keep a lid on the tensions. President Abbas tried in vain to bring the sides together but could not stop asplit ahead of the parliamentary elections. The veteran politician Ahmed Qurei earlier resigned as prime minister to stand as a candidate in the polls, but now says he will not run. He maintains the decision is not linked to the infighting.
A new Fatah list put Qurei in second place, behind Marwan Barghouti, the popular uprising leader who is in jail in Israel. The list is seen as a compromise, with most of the candidates from a younger generation seen as more likely to win votes. Fatah is up against the growing popularity of Hamas.