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Fatah holds massive rally in Gaza stadium

Published 07/01/2007

Tens of thousands of Fatah supporters packed Gaza's main soccer stadium today in a massive show of strength to boost the movement in its increasingly violent struggle against the Islamic militant group Hamas.

Fatah's strongman in Gaza, Mohammed Dahlan, was given a hero's welcome as he entered the stadium. As he began speaking he shooed away the security guards protecting him.

''Let Hamas shoot me,'' he said as the crowd erupted in applause. Fatah gunmen fired in the air during his speech.

The gathering was the largest Fatah demonstration in Gaza since 1994, when Yasser Arafat returned triumphantly to Gaza from exile in the framework of a partial peace deal with Israel.

The demonstration came as masked Fatah gunmen released a video of a kidnapped Hamas official, threatening to expand attacks against Hamas if it rejects calls to disband its militia in the Gaza Strip.

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