November 9, 2014 / 4:23 PM / 5 years ago

Fatah cancels Arafat memorial in Gaza over security

GAZA (Reuters) - Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah movement said on Sunday it had canceled a commemoration rally planned in Gaza for its late leader Yasser Arafat, in another setback to a unity pact with the territory’s Islamist Hamas rulers.

Two days after explosions rocked houses of Fatah leaders in Gaza, the group said it had to call off Tuesday’s event after Hamas and security services loyal to it said they would not be able to secure the rally.

The cancellation was another sign of tension between the two movements, which agreed on a unity pact in April in an effort to overcome deep political rifts that led to a brief civil war in 2007, when Hamas fighters seized Gaza from Fatah.

Fatah official Zakaria al-Agha said in a news conference the notice given by the Gaza Interior Ministry that it would not be able to provide security at the rally contradicted the reconciliation agreement.

“We warn against possible repercussions on the Palestinian internal situation because of this position and we hold Hamas responsible for any negative impact,” Agha said.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said the group was surprised by Fatah’s decision to cancel the event, calling it an internal Fatah affair. Eyad al-Bozom, spokesman of the Gaza Interior Ministry, said the newly established Palestinian unity government has ignored basic needs of Gaza’s security forces.

The rally, on the 10th anniversary of Arafat’s mysterious death, was expected to draw a crowd of hundreds of thousands.

The official cause of Arafat’s death, in a French hospital, was a massive stroke, but doctors said at the time they were unable to determine the origin of his illness. Many Palestinians believe Israel killed him.

Tension between Fatah and Hamas has hampered efforts to rebuild Gaza after a July-August war with Israel in which more than 2,100 Palestinians and more than 70 Israelis were killed.

On Friday, 15 explosions targeted houses and cars of several senior Fatah officials and warning notes threatened further attacks should they go ahead with the rally.

It was not clear who carried out Friday’s attacks, but a letter left at the scene of one of the blasts, which caused no casualties, was signed in the name of Islamic State.

Fatah sources said they doubted the letter was authentic and Hamas, which dominates the Gaza Strip, vowed it would hunt down the attackers.

Reporting by Nidal Almughrabi; Editing by Maayan Lubell and Dominic Evans

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