After 5 Year Ban, Hamas Holds Rally in West Bank

Following agreement between Fatah and Hamas, thousands of Hamas supporters rally in Nablus; Fatah rally to be held in Gaza next month.

Hamas held its first rally in the West Bank Thursday, after a five-year ban, celebrating the 25th anniversary of the founding of the Islamist movement.

The movement's green flags were prominent in the northern city of Nablus as thousands of people participated in the rally.

The rally was made possible after the Palestinian Authority lifted the ban enforced since June 2007 when Hamas fighters took over the Gaza Strip after a short battle with Fatah-backed security forces.

Fatah, which is headed by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and Hamas started reconciliation talks last year, but without any concrete results.

Differences between the two movements narrowed after Israel's attack on Gaza in November.

In return for allowing Hamas to hold an anniversary rally in Nablus and a second one in Hebron on Friday, Hamas has agreed to allow Fatah to hold an anniversary rally in the Gaza Strip on the first day of the new year.

Senior Fatah officials participated in the Hamas rally during which speeches were made urging immediate steps to reunite the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and end more than five years of split.