The Palestinian National Liberation Movement, Fatah, celebrated its 48th anniversary in Gaza on Friday. This was the first such celebration event in the besieged Gaza Strip for five years.
The event took place in Al-Saraya Square on the site of the biggest security headquarters destroyed by Israeli F16 fighter jets during the Zionist state's offensives against Gaza in November 2012 and late 2008/early 2009.
Tens of thousands of Fatah loyalists from all over the Gaza Strip convened in the central square and streets around it to watch a televised speech by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
Fatah leaders from Gaza and the West Bank promised in advance that their members and supporters would not create disturbances during the celebration. However, as predicted, those loyal to disgraced Fatah "strongman" Mohammed Dahlan sought to undermine the programme.
The classical Fatah vocal group Al-Asheqeen, lost their chance to sing in Gaza for the first time when clashes erupted on the stage as Dahlan loyalists refused to allow Fatah's senior West Bank official Jebreel al-Rajoub to take his place. The clashes developed when a group of Fatah members cut the wires leading to the loudspeakers.
The event was cut short when a section of the stage collapsed after a large number of Fatah security staff climbed onto it. Medical sources said that about 50 casualties received medical help at the site. Several were admitted to hospital for further treatment for "moderate" injuries.
A spokesman for Gaza's government said that the Interior Ministry did its best to secure and facilitate the Fatah celebration. Fatah officials thanked Hamas and the Interior Ministry for their efforts to make the celebration a success, and apologised for what happened, which meant that speeches by a Hamas official and other guests had to be cancelled.
The last time that a public Fatah event was held in Gaza was several months after Hamas took full control of the Gaza Strip in June 2007. Fatah commemorated the death of its late president, Yasser Arafat; chaos erupted, resulting in the deaths of ten Fatah loyalists and policemen.
The Palestinian government in Gaza subsequently banned all Fatah public events. This latest programme took place as a gesture of national reconciliation by Hamas, following a similar gesture by the PA in the occupied West Bank allowing a Hamas event to be held there a couple of weeks ago.
MEMO Photographer: Mohammed Asad