Gaza Strip: Fatah cancels rally as pilgrims still stranded in Egypt
Fatah faction will limit its anniversary celebrations in Hamas-run Gaza Strip to candles and fireworks this week for fear a rally -- banned by the Islamist rulers -- will spark violence. According to Reuters, Fatah said on Monday it had called off an annual rally after a Hamas ban to avoid clashes with its Islamist rivals.
"Fatah has chosen the way that would preserve the blood of our people and that would avoid any form of friction," senior Fatah leader Ahmed Helles told a news conference in Gaza.
Hamas banned the rally planned for Tuesday to mark the founding of Fatah in 1965 in case Fatah loyalists used it to carry out "acts of sabotage", police officials said. The yellow Fatah flags that would normally fly to mark the occasion could not be seen around Gaza because of the ban.
Meanwhile, stranded Palestinian haj pilgrims protesting at Egypt's refusal to allow them to return to Gaza Strip via a Hamas-controlled crossing, smashed furniture and windows at a shelter on Monday, a security source said. The pilgrims are trying to return to Gaza after completing the annual haj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia.
Israel insists they must all pass through Israeli security checks on the grounds that some may be carrying arms or money for Hamas.
One pilgrim, a 67-year-old woman, died on Monday of heart problems after being taken to hospital, a security source said. Egyptian security sources said on Monday Israel had agreed to let 100 Palestinians return to Gaza through Israel. They are among about 1,000 Palestinians stranded in Egypt from before the haj, including 28 who have been stuck at the el-Arish airport and police stations for four months because they refused to enter Gaza through Israel.
According to Reuters, the source said the 100 Palestinians would have their papers processed at the Rafah crossing before heading to the Kerem Shalom crossing between Egypt and Israel on Egyptian buses.