Abbas Opens Fatah Assembly

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BETHLEHEM - Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas opened the sixth Fatah General Assembly on Tuesday morning in Bethlehem.

An estimated 2,000 Fatah supporters are expected to attend the three-day gathering, the first in two decades.

Abbas called the rival Palestinian Hamas faction "revolutionaries" and "men of darkness" before denouncing Israel for not keeping its commitments and creating "facts on the ground" that "Jerusalem is united under their [Israeli] sovereignty."

In addition to voting for the movement's two main bodies - the 21-member Central Committee and the 120-member Revolutionary Council, participants will formulate Fatah's strategy in its conflict with Israel.

A draft of the movement's political program, which was "leaked" to the Palestinian media on Monday, confirmed that senior Fatah officials will recommend replacing the term "armed struggle" with "resistance," Jerusalem Post Palestinian Affairs correspondent Khaled Abu Toameh reported.

The new program will likely state that while Fatah supports the peace process with Israel, it retains the right to "resistance" (a euphemism for terror attacks) as a means of achieving the goals of the Palestinian people.

Such a declaration lines up with Hamas-affiliated Palestinians. Hamas took over control of the Gaza Strip in a bloody military coup with Fatah forces in June 2007.

Senior Fatah official Jibril Rajoub called "resistance" an enduring Fatah policy.

"Resistance was and is a tactical and strategic option of the struggle, which are part of Fatah's policy and which Israel must acknowledge," Rajoub said.

Also slated for discussion is the ongoing conflict with Hamas, which banned 400 Fatah members from leaving Gaza to attend the assembly.

Hamas demanded that the Palestinian Authority release some 900 of its members, being held without trial as political detainees. PA officials claim the Hamas detainees are linked to the Islamist movement.

Israeli Arab Knesset members Ahmed Tibi and Taleb A-Sanaa (united Arab List-Ta'al) and Hadash MK Muhammad Barakei will also take part in the Fatah assembly.

Source: The Jerusalem Post

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